Pending sales of existing U.S. homes fell 2.6 percent in November from an October level that was revised sharply upwards and sales should hold steady over the next few months, a real estate trade group said Tuesday.
The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in November, dropped to 87.6 from an upwardly revised 89.9 in October.
Economists polled by Reuters ahead of the report were expecting pending home sales to decline by 0.5 percent from October's originally reported 87.2.
The pending homes sales data suggests that the volume of sales will hold steady for a while before turning upwards before the end of the year, said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.
The pending sales figure was 19.2 percent below the November 2006 level of 108.4.
"Although there could be some minor slippage in the first quarter, existing home sales should hold in a narrow range before trending up," Yun said.
Some economists were less sanguine about the outlook for the sector.
"The underlying trend in sales remains downwards, because people are unwilling to borrow money in order to finance the purchase of rapidly depreciating assets," said Ian Shepherdson,
chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York.
The trade group predicted that existing home sales for 2007 will total 5.65 million units and should edge up to 5.70 million this year.
The median existing home sales price is likely to have fallen 1.9 percent in 2007 and hold steady this year, NAR said.