U.S. sales of previously owned homes fell 8.0 percent in September to a record low 5.04 million unit pace amid troubles in the subprime mortgage and credit markets, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.
It was the lowest sales pace since the group began tracking both single-family and condo sales jointly in 1999.
Total existing home sales, which include condominiums, fell in September from a downwardly revised pace of 5.48 million in August. Economists polled by Reuters were expecting home sales to fall to a 5.25 million-unit sales pace.
"Home sales fell in September, but it was certainly due to the August credit crunch," said NAR economist Lawrence Yun.
U.S. Treasury debt prices extended gains slightly.
The dollar slipped against the yen to session lows after the unexpectedly weak report.
"The housing data ... tells us that we are not out of the woods yet. It increases the uncertainty regarding the U.S. economic outlook and reinforces the view the Fed may have to cut rates at its meeting next week," said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.
The slower pace of sales helped drive up the inventory of homes available for sale by 0.4 percent at the end of September to 4.40 million, which represents a 10.5-month supply at the current sales pace. That supply was the highest for both single-family and condos combined since 1999.
Single-family home sales fell 8.6 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted 4.38 million-unit pace from 4.79 million, which was the slowest pace in nearly 10 years.
The national median existing home price for both single-family and condos dropped 4.2 percent from a year ago to $211,700.