Existing home sales rose 0.4% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million units from 4.90 million units in December. Compared to a year ago, existing home sales were up 9.1% in January. The inventory of unsold homes on the market fell 4.9% to 1.74 million in January, a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 4.5-month supply in December.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo monthly housing market index fell one point in February to 46. An index reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending February 15 fell 1.7%.
Refinancing applications decreased 1.6%. Purchase volume fell 1.7%. The combined construction of new single-family homes and apartments in January fell 8.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 890,000 units. Single-family starts increased 0.8%. Volatile multifamily starts fell 24.1%. Compared to the previous year, housing starts were up 23.6% in January. Applications for new building permits, seen as an indicator of future activity, rose 1.8% to an annual rate of 925,000 units.
Consumer prices were unchanged in January, following a flat reading in December. Compared to January 2012, consumer prices have risen 1.6%. Consumer prices at the core rate — excluding volatile food and energy prices — were up 0.3% in January.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending February 16 rose by 20,000 to 362,000. Continuing claims for the week ending February 9 rose by 11,000 to 3.148 million. The less volatile four-week average of claims for unemployment benefits was 360,750.
Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on the housing price index on February 26 and pending home sales on February 27.