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March 20, 2014 10:10 AM, EDT
Sales of Existing Homes Fall to Lowest Since 2012
David Ryder/Bloomberg News

Purchases of previously owned homes in the United States declined in February to the lowest level since July 2012, a sign the industry may be slow to recover.

Contract closings on existing properties fell 0.4% to a 4.6 million annual rate, matching the median projection in a Bloomberg News survey, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed March 20 in Washington. Prices rose 9.1% from a year earlier, the group said.

“It may take some time to get sales back on track after the weather effect,” Tom Simons, an economist at Jefferies in New York, said before the report. “Home sales will keep growing this year, though maybe not at the pace we saw last year. Rising mortgage rates are a modest negative for demand.”

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of economists ranged from 4.5 million to 4.76 million. The prior month’s pace was unrevised at 4.62 million.

Compared with a year earlier, purchases decreased 6.9% on an unadjusted basis.

Sales of existing single-family homes decreased 0.2% to an annual rate of 4.04 million. Purchases of multifamily properties, including condominiums and townhouses, fell 1.8% to a 560,000 pace.

Purchases declined in two of four regions, including 11.3% in the Northeast. Sales rose in the South and West.