Pending home sales tank almost 8% in January
* Sales dropped 7.6% between December and January. That compared to the 1% gain that economists were expecting.
* At 90.4, the index was up up 12.4% from the year-ago level of 80.4.
* By region, pendings fell across the board. They slipped 2.1% in the South, fell 8.7% in the Northeast, dropped 8.9% in the Midwest, and tanked 13.2% in the West.
Pending sales were another big disappointment in January. Transactions fell much more sharply than expected, with declines noted in all regions of the country. I'm not sure why this was such a surprise, given the lousy new home sales figures we already had. But it is what it is.
The bigger picture story here? The hangover from the initial home buyer tax credit is proving to be worse than expected. Throw in a lackluster job market and a sputtering economy, and you can see why sales aren't spiking. It doesn't mean we're headed into an even-deeper housing depression. Lower prices and low mortgage rates are combining to make homes more affordable than they've been in a long time -- and some buyers are responding. But it does mean a vigorous recovery will continue to be MIA.