Home sales dipped last month, surprising economists.
Data released on Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors showed that existing home sales were down 1% in December, hitting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million homes. Economists had anticipated a rate of 5.1 million units, Reuters noted.
Despite the drop, existing home sales still scored their second-highest annual sales pace in three years. Existing home inventories also declined to 1.82 million, down 8.5% compared to November, and down 21.6% from December 2011.
At the current sales pace, it would take 4.4 months to deplete the current supply of existing homes.
Prices for existing homes in December rose 11.5% over the prior year to a median of $180,800. Sales of distressed properties rose from 22% in November to 24% last month, but that was still less than the 32% of sales in December 2011.
The news didn’t do much to help homebuilder stocks. Shares of Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) and Ryland Group (NYSEL:RYL) slipped fractionally in Tuesday midday trading, while D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI) shares fell more than 1%.