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New home sales in the United States fell unexpectedly in December to an annualized rate of 307,000 units, down 2.2% from November and 7.3% below the pace in December 2010.
Total units sold for the month fell to the lowest level in 11 months, at 21,000 new purchases.
Economists had forecast new home sales would inch up 1.9% to an annualized rate of 321,000 units.
For the full year, only 302,000 new residences sold, 6.2% below the 323,000 that moved in 2010.
Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors warned that pending home sales, or those sales in contract, had declined.
“Contract failures remain an issue, reported by one-third of Realtors over the past few months,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.
The supply of new homes on the market currently represents a 6.1 month inventory at the December sales pace, the lowest level in more than a year.
The Census Bureau is minutes away from releasing new home sales data for December, with economists polled by Bloomberg expecting the headline figure to rise 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 321,000 units.
In November, the indicator rose 1.6% to 315,000 units.
Economists say the headline figure needs to top 700,000 to sustain a healthy housing market.
Separately, in today’s Caterpillar earning’s report, the company guided for housing starts to exceed 700,000 units, above low 600,000 levels seen in 2011.
New constructions have not fared as well as existing home sales, where unit sales pushed higher throughout the fourth quarter of 2011. In December, the annual rate of existing home sales increased 5.0% to 4.61 million units, missing predictions by 20 basis points.