Sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose more than expected in March, a trade group said on Wednesday, raising cautious optimism a recovery may be in sight for the housing market.
* The National Association of Realtors said sales rose 3.7 percent month over month to an annual rate of 5.10 million units after an upwardly revised 4.92 million unit pace in February. * Economists polled by Reuters had expected sales to rise 2.5 percent to a 5.0 million-unit pace from the previously reported 4.88 million unit rate. Sales have now risen in six of the past eight months.
PIERRE ELLIS, SENIOR GLOBAL ECONOMIST, DECISION ECONOMICS INC., NEW YORK
It's slow, steady progress, but you cannot not be disturbed by the slow pace of recovery. Demand is rising even with higher mortgage rates so that's encouraging.
Right now it is unclear whether this slowness in improvement is due to hesitancy among buyers or it's difficult getting a mortgage. Both of these conditions should ease if job and income growth picks up. For the moment, this is reasonable progress.
STEVE GOLDMAN, MARKET STRATEGIST, WEEDEN & CO. IN GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT
I guess we are all pretty much entrenched in the fact that things are going to be pretty sluggish in that area.
When you look through some of the numbers on its affect on net worth...it wasn't as material as one would suspect given these marginal to flattish movements in net worth. It may have some implications for the individual bank names.
As long as the declines are flattish to moderate there are still other forces behind the gains and the strength in the economy.
GARY SHILLING, PRESIDENT, A. GARY SHILLING & CO. INVESTMENT RESEARCH FIRM. SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY
Housing sales continue to bump along the bottom. Obviously the problem is that there's such a huge inventory of excess housing units. We'd have to see a tremendous pickup in sales to see that absorbed in anything less than four or five years. The beat here is nothing, just a statistical anomaly.
MICHAEL WOOLFOLK, SENIOR CURRENCY STRATEGIST, BNY MELLON, NEW YORK
This data is not bad. We've seen some modest recovery from the record lows that we saw at the beginning of the year. There may be some spillover effect from the severe weather we had this winter in these numbers, with this report providing comeuppance for the slowness during the winter. But it's going to take more data to confirm we've put in a bottom in housing.
GENNADIY GOLDBERG, FIXED INCOME ANALYST, 4CAST, INC., NEW YORK
It's still pretty much more of the same old -- still a lot of distressed sales but the number doesn't seem to be impacting the market very much. It was right on expectations after the weaker February print.
BURT WHITE, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, LPL FINANCIAL IN BOSTON
At the end of the day, it is very good news, and it really shows that the improvement we've seen on the employment front is finally finding its way in areas outside of just the malls and the shopping centers. We've seen the consumer be pretty resilient early on in this recovery as we've seen employment get a little better -- go to the malls and do a pretty good job of consumer spending. But we really haven't seen it enter into some of the bigger purchases, especially as it relates to housing. But March and February seem to be turning that around a little bit. We got great building permits and housing starts yesterday, the weekly change in mortgage applications were very strong and existing home sales were quite strong.
So if you mix all that together, it really shows that consumers have moved in a very interesting direction, and that is it's one thing to go out and buy new t-shirts and socks, it's another to go out and buy a house. The improvement on the employment front is beginning to get consumers to a point where they feel comfortable enough to be able to not only make small purchases but begin to start looking toward bigger purchases. Which probably bodes pretty well for housing going forward, certainly the spring selling season and potentially growth as it relates to the rest of the year.
STOCKS: U.S. stocks maintain earlier gains.
BONDS: U.S. bond prices hold steady at lower levels.
FOREX: The dollar steady at lower levels versus the euro