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‘Disruptive Weather’ Continues to Slow Home Sales

Pending home sales ticked up slightly in January, just barely moving from December’s two-year low, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Friday.

The group’s Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking sales indicator based on contract signings, edged up 0.1 percent to an even 95 last month, a meager improvement from December’s upwardly revised reading of 94.9.

Compared to January 2013, pending sales were down 9.0 percent.

"Ongoing disruptive weather patterns in much of the U.S. inhibited home shopping," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "Limited inventory also is playing a role, especially in the West, while credit remains tight and affordability isn't as favorable as it was a year ago."

While it was hardly a banner report, January's gain at least turned around the prior month's originally reported 8.7 percent decline to 92.4, the lowest reading since November 2011.

While NAR projects a weak first quarter for existing-home sales (already evident in January's lackluster report), the pace "should pick up in the middle part of the year," leading to a full-year total of just over 5.0 million sales.

Pending sales rose in the Northeast by 2.3 to an index value of 79.0, NAR reported, though contracts were still down 5.3 percent year-over-year. The South's index was also up, rising 3.5 percent to 111.2 (down 5.5 percent from last year).

Those gains were offset by a 2.5 percent decline in Midwest—to 92.9, down 9.3 percent annually—and a 4.8 percent fall in the West to 84.2 (a 17.5 percent year-over-year decrease).

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