Existing home sales fall in March amid hopes for end to downturn

March existing home sales drop 0.2%
March existing home sales drop 0.2%

U.S. home resales fell to their lowest level in more than 1-1/2 years in March, but there were signs a recent downward trend that has plagued the housing market may be drawing to an end.

The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday home sales slipped 0.2 percent to an annual rate of 4.59 million units, the lowest level since July 2012.

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The decline was, however, less than economists' expectations for a fall to a 4.55-million pace. February's sales pace was unrevised at 4.60 million units.

Existing home sales are counted at the closing of contracts and March's sales reflected contracts signed in January and February when the country was in the grip of an unusually cold and snowy winter.

Even accounting for the terrible weather, the housing market has slowed significantly since last summer as a run-up in mortgage rates, high house prices and a dearth of properties sidelined potential buyers.

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Existing home sales have been trending lower since last August, briefly popping up in December. Compared to March last year, sales were down 7.5 percent.

--By Reuters