U.S. home sales unexpectedly fell in January, leading to the biggest year-on-year decline in more than three years, as a persistent shortage of houses pushed up prices and kept first-time buyers out of the market.
The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday that existing home sales dropped 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million units last month. It was the second straight monthly decline and reflected decreases in all four regions.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast existing home sales rising 0.9 percent to a rate of 5.60 million units in January.
Existing home sales, which account for about 90 percent of U.S. home sales, declined 4.8 percent on a year-on-year basis in January. That was the biggest year-on-year drop since August 2014. The weakness in home sales is largely a function of supply constraints rather than a lack of demand.
"The utter lack of sufficient housing supply and its influence on higher home prices muted overall sales activity in much of the U.S. last month," said Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist.
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