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U.S. housing reports point to slow, steady recovery

Americans are finally gaining confidence in the housing market five years after it collapsed.

Sales of new and previously occupied homes are up from the same time last year. Home prices are rising in most markets. And homebuilders are starting more projects.

The market still has a long way to regain full health. But the data suggest the worst is over and a modest recovery is under way.

Here’s a look at recent housing indicators:



The number of people who signed contracts to buy previously occupied homes rose in May, matching the fastest pace in two years.

The National Association of Realtors said its index of sales agreements increased to 101.1 last month from 95.5 in April. A reading above 100 is considered healthy.



Completed sales of previously occupied homes fell in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million after nearly touching a two-year high the previous month.

NAR says sales have risen 9.6 percent from a year ago. Still, sales are well below the

6-million-a-year rate that economists consider healthy.



Americans bought new homes in May at the fastest pace since April 2010, according to the Commerce Department.

Sales rose 7.6 percent in May from April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000 homes.

Even with the gains, the annual sales pace is less than half the 700,000 that would be considered normal.



Home prices rose in April from March in 19 of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index.

That’s the second straight month prices have risen in a majority of U.S. cities.

And a measure of national prices rose 1.3 percent in April from March, the first increase in seven months. Based on the 20-city index, prices are now about where they were in early 2003.



U.S. builders started work on more single-family homes in May for a third straight month, according to data from the Commerce Department. And homebuilders requested the most permits to start projects in 3 1/2 years.

Overall housing starts fell in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 708,000. But that was entirely because of a plunge in volatile apartment construction.

Still, the rate of construction and the level of permits requested remain roughly half the pace considered healthy.



The average U.S. rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell last week to 3.66 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. The rate on the 30-year loan has been below 4 percent since December, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac.


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