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DS News Webcast: Wednesday 4/23/2014

According to estimates from the National Association of Realtors, total existing-home sales in March came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.5 million, a 0.2 percent slip from February's downwardly revised pace of 4.6 million and a nearly two-year low. Compared to March 2013, the sales rate was down 7.5 percent. Removing figures for co-ops, condominiums, and townhouses, single-family existing-home sales were at a rate of 4 million last month, which was flat from February but down 7.3 percent compared to a year prior.

By NAR's measure, the median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $198,500, an increase of 7.9 percent year-over-year. While historically high, the increase is a step down from February's reported 9.1 percent annual gain. The rise may be attributed to a 4.7 percent improvement in total housing inventory, which was estimated at roughly 2 million existing homes as of March 31. Also contributing to the ongoing, albeit slower, growth in home prices was a drop in distressed home sales, which accounted for 14 percent of March's transactions.

In Fannie Mae's Economic and Housing Outlook for April, the company noted economic activity slowed in Q1 even more than was forecasted, partly due to a sharp decline in inventory investment as consumer spending waned. Citing that drop as well as unusual weather patterns and a widening in February's net exports, the group brought its projection for first-quarter economic growth down 0.5 percentage points to 1.5 percent annualized. Even with the adjustment, Fannie's prediction calls for economic growth at 2.7 percent in 2014.

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