Several new reports are suggesting that the U.S. housing market may have started a slow return, even as interest rates continue to stymie new home construction.
Single-family housing sales, one of the best barometers for both the larger American economy as well as the construction sector, hit a one-year high in March, surging 9.6% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 683,000 units.
The new data, from the Department of Commerce, beat most economists’ estimates and seems to be impacted favorably by a small drop in the 30-year mortgage rate most recently. The numbers had been down for seven straight quarters, the longest such streak since the collapse in the housing market that caused the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
While the rate was up nationally there were big variances across the country. In the Northeast, sales skyrocketed 171% while they jumped 30% in the West. In the Midwest, the gain was closer to the national average, at 6% but in the South sales dropped 5%. And even as the March total beat the February results, they were still off 3.4% from the same period a year ago.
Housing starts, another good barometer, were also encouraging, with single-family starts up 2.7% in March versus February, the Census Bureau said. Overall housing starts were off a little less than 1% for the month, reflecting the continued uncertainty in the construction sector.
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