Existing home sales jump 7.6% in April
* Existing home sales jumped another 7.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million in April from 5.36 million in March. That was better than forecasts for a sales rate of 5.62 million, and comes on the heels of a 7% gain a month earlier.
* Regionally, sales generally rose. They gained 21.1% in the Northeast, 9.9% in the Midwest, and 8.6% in the South. Sales dropped 6.2% in the West. By property type, single family sales rose 7.4% while condo and coop sales surged 9.1%.
* The raw number of homes for sale rose 11.5% to 4.044 million from 3.626 million in March. Compared with a year earlier, supply inched up 2.7%. The months supply at current sales pace indicator of inventory rose to 8.4 from 8.1. Median prices rose 2.1% to $173,100 from $169,600 a month earlier. They're up 4% from the year-ago level of $166,500.
Home sales popped nicely this spring, thanks to the tax credit and rising affordability. Turnover climbed to the highest level since October, while home prices showed their best year-over-year rate of change going all the way back to May 2006. At the same time, the inventory of homes for sale rose strongly, casting a pall over the recent improvement in supply trends. Bottom line: I'd call these figures mixed. The same goes for the other data we've gotten recently -- builder optimism has improved, while purchase mortgage applications have slumped to multi year lows.
In the grand scheme of things, housing is affordable again. Lenders aren't really tightening standards any more. And the employment situation has stabilized. That's the good news. The bad? The backlog of distressed homes remains extremely high. Uncle Sam is just about the only guy making or backing home loans. And we're certainly not seeing a rip-roaring rebound in the job market. Under those conditions, we can still get an anemic recovery in housing -- but it won't be worth breaking out the champagne over.