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May 31, 2019, 9:06 a.m. EDT

Pending home sales fall, marking the 16th-straight month of annual declines

All the conditions are right for a stronger housing market, but does that mean it’s ‘inevitable’?

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By Andrea Riquier


Bloomberg News/Landov
A "For Sale" sign is displayed outside a house in Oradell, New Jersey.

The numbers: Pending home sales fell a seasonally adjusted 1.5% in April and were 2% lower than a year ago, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday . The consensus Econoday forecast was for a 0.5% increase.

What happened: NAR’s index, which tracks home-contract signings, has been volatile, but the trend is solidly downward. April marked the 16th-straight month of annual declines.

Contract signings precede closings by about 45-60 days, so the pending home-sales index is a leading indicator for upcoming existing-home sales reports.

Only the Midwest saw an increase in April, with a 1.3% uptick. Pending sales were down 1.8% in the Northeast, 2.5% in the South, and 1.8% in the West.

Read: Economic expansion poised to become longest in U.S. history, leading indicators show

Big picture: Housing seemed to be bouncing back from the rough patch at the end of 2018, but as 2019 winds on, that picture is becoming more blurry. On Tuesday, the widely-followed Case-Shiller index showed home prices had risen at the slowest pace since mid-2012 in March.

What they’re saying: “Real estate agents throughout the U.S. may have to brace for a more sluggish market than anticipated based on last month’s decline in home showing activity, the ninth consecutive month of a nationwide year-over-year decrease,” according to an index from ShowingTime, which compiles data about property showings .

But the Realtor lobby group remains upbeat. “It’s inevitable for sales to turn higher in a few months,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.

Market reaction: The 10-year U.S. Treasury note /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y -5.20%  , which sets the tone for fixed-rate mortgage rates, is down again in the most recent week, offering an affordability boost to would-be house hunters.

Related: Americans are driving until they qualify again, and builders are responding

/zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime
add Add to watchlist BX:TMUBMUSD10Y
BX : Tullet Prebon
1.46
-0.08 -5.20%
Volume: 0.00
Aug. 26, 2019 2:00a
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Andrea Riquier reports on housing and banking from MarketWatch's New York newsroom. Follow her on Twitter @ARiquier.

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