What Slowdown? Home Sales Up in December

U.S. home sales ticked up in December, according to a report released on Thursday by the National Association of Realtors(NAR). Sales of previously-owned homes rose to 4.87 million units, a 1 percent rise from the previous month and the first increase since August.

“We have an economy that is firing on almost all cylinders and we expect to see a noticeable pick-up in growth in 2014,” said Gus Faucher, a senior analyst at PNC Financial Services.

On balance, economists viewed the latest NAR report positively, especially given the unusually cold weather that griped the nation throughout most of December.

“The recent housing market slowdown is being exacerbated by transitory factors such as weather,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities.

The 1 percent rise in existing home sales breaks a three-month downtrend and suggests housing may again be picking up steam, after cooling noticeably last fall. Since September, rising mortgage rates have slowed housing activity in most parts of the country, and economists feared the downturn could persist well into 2014. This latest report seems to indicate the recent weakness in home sales is transitory and that the housing recovery remains broadly intact.

Home prices have held firm despite the recent weakness in sales. Nationally, NAR says prices are up 11.5 percent year-over-year, the biggest annual advance since 2005.