Home Sales Surge as Buyers Race Against Mortgage Rates

What Friday’s Economic Reports Tell Us

Realtor talking on cell phone with couple in new home

Resolution Productions / Getty Images

January brought a surprising uptick in the number of homes sold, while an index measuring future prospects for the economy dipped.

Here’s a quick look at the most significant economic indicators of the day and what they tell us.

Existing Home Sales 

  • More homes were sold in January than in December, surprising forecasters who had expected a decline, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales rose 6.7%, more than making up for the 3.8% decline in December, and reaching the highest annualized pace in a year.
  • Plenty of people wanted to buy houses despite few choices—in fact, buyers continued to practically pick listings clean, shrinking the number of homes for sale down to just 860,000 at the end of January, the lowest for any month since at least 1999. 
  • The report suggests there’s little relief in sight for the rapidly rising home prices we’ve seen lately, which, together with rising mortgage rates, have been putting homeownership out of reach for more and more people. Indeed, the jump in sales may reflect buyers rushing to get home loans before interest rates rise even further, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the association.

Leading Economic Index

  • The Conference Board Leading Economic Index—a measure designed to show where the economy is headed—slid 0.3%, the first decline since February of last year. Economists had expected the index to rise 0.2%.
  • The index showed the omicron wave of COVID-19 taking its toll on stocks, manufacturing, and employment in January. But economists aren’t particularly discouraged. “The Omicron variant of COVID-19 caused a substantial detour, though things appear to be getting back on track,” said Matt Colyar of Moody’s Analytics.

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  1. National Association of Realtors. “Existing-Home Sales Surge 6.7% in January.”

  2. Conference Board. “The Conference Board LEI for the United States.”

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