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US Home Sales Beat Expectations Amid 2-Year High in Price Gains

Sales of US homes rose more than expected in October at 1.9% gain vs. 1.4% expected. House prices rose at the fastest pace in two years, with lower mortgage rates and a lack of inventory contributing to demand. The median home price rose 6.2% annually to $207,900 last month.

Key Takeaways

  • Home sales rose by 1.9% in October, selling 5.46 million units and beating expectations of 1.4% gains.
  • September’s pace of sales was revised lower to 5.36 million units.
  • Home prices saw the fastest pace of sales in over two years with 6.2% annual gains, bolstered by mortgage cuts and housing shortages.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released a report on Thursday indicating increased sales and home prices. NAR sees the growth in home prices as a negative aspect of today’s market, with NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun stating that “The lack of inventory is pushing up prices way too fast.” Existing home sales rose 4.6% annually, the fourth straight month of year-on-year gains. Last month, there were 1.77 million homes for sale, down 4.3% from this time last year.

 In the populous South, sales rose 4.4%, with a 1.6% gain in the Northeast. Sales in the Midwest and the West dropped -1.4% and -0.9% respectively. At October’s pace of sales, the current inventory would take 3.9 months to clear, down from 4.3 months last year. A supply of six to seven months is seen as a healthy balance between supply and demand, and the latest report shows that inventories are contracting further from that zone.

The median existing house price rose 6.2% annually to $207,900 in October, the strongest gain since June 2017 and the 92nd month of consecutive annual gains. However, home building rebounded in October according to a report released on Tuesday, with permits for future construction rising above a 12-year high.

Sustained Expansion Despite Shortages

The US Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times in 2019 before indicating a pause in cuts. With lower mortgage rates, the housing market has seen renewed activity after a slow year. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has fallen 130 basis points as a result of the Fed’s monetary easing policies, dropping rates from last year’s peak of 4.94% to 3.66% on average, according to mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stated that a “sustained expansion” is likely to continue for the US economy which is now in its longest ever period of growth. With the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years, the labor market is contributing to spending on consumer goods and home purchases.

Market Reaction

Spot gold continues to trade lower in today’s session following tentative news of a trade deal between the US and China. Spot gold last traded at $1,468.77/oz, down -0.31% with a high of $1,475.75/oz and a low of $1,463.84/oz. Mixed data from the Philadelphia Fed on manufacturing may also be contributing to selling pressure.