Stewart Cohen—Getty Images
By Jason Lange / Reuters
March 21, 2016

U.S. home resales fell sharply in February in a potentially troubling sign for America’s economy which has otherwise looked resilient to the global economic slowdown.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday existing home sales dropped 7.1% to an annual rate of 5.08 million units, the lowest level since November.

Sales have been volatile and prone to big swings up and down in recent months following the introduction in October of new mortgage regulations, which are intended to help homebuyers understand their loan options and shop around for loans best suited to their financial circumstances.

Sales fell across the country in February, including a 17.1% plunge in the U.S. Northeast.

Economists had forecast home resales decreasing 2.8% to a pace of 5.32 million units last month. Sales were up 2.2% from a year ago.

The median price for a previously owned home increased 4.4% to $210,800 from a year ago.

The housing report runs counter to data showing strong job growth and a stabilization of factory output, which had taken a hit from weaker demand overseas and a strong U.S. dollar.

Housing continues to be supported by a tightening labor market, which is starting to push up wage growth, boosting household formation. But a relative dearth of properties available for sale remains a challenge.

In February, the number of unsold homes on the market rose 3.3% from January to 1.88 million units, but was down 1.1% from a year ago.

At February’s sales pace, it would take 4.4 months to clear the stock of houses on the market, up from 4.0 months in January. A six-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

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