Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Sales of existing homes in the U.S. fell last month to the lowest level in at least nine years, signaling the housing slump is deepening and will weigh on growth in 2008.
Resales declined 0.4 percent, less than forecast, to an annual rate of 4.89 million from a revised 4.91 million in December that was higher than previously reported, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The group began record-keeping for this measure in 1999.
That's the big picture and of course it is not good news. However, there are glimmers - and just glimmers - in the details of the report. This report was better than expected; economists had been looking for a rate of 4.8 million. The median sales price fell 4.6% to $201,100. Falling prices will eventually entice buyers. In one other hopeful sign, single family home resales actually rose 0.5%; it was the condo market that really got killed - down 6.5%.
There are obviously still problems with the real estate market and it will be a long time before prices recover to the previous highs. From the perspective of the impact on the economy though, all we really need is for housing to stablize. We seem to be creeping closer to that point.