The number of single-family homes sold in the United States fell for the fourth straight month in February and has dropped nearly 30 per cent from a year ago, according to government figures released Wednesday. Home sales dropped by a seasonally adjusted 1.8 per cent from January to February and 29.8 per cent from February 2007, according to a joint release by the US Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development. ( dpa )
A sharp decline in home sales and falling prices fuelled a record number of foreclosures over the last year and sparked a wider slowdown in the US economy.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Wednesday that the housing crisis remained "the biggest downside risk to our economy" and said that the government was working to limit the impact on other sectors.
Meanwhile, there were some signs of a turnaround amid a series of drastic cuts by the Federal Reserve in its key interest rate.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said that refinancing applications by struggling homeowners taking advantage of lower mortgage rates surged 82 per cent over the last week. Home purchase applications also rose on the week.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) earlier this week said that existing home sales - including townhouses and condominiums in urban areas, unlike the Census Bureau estimate - rose unexpectedly in February but were still off by 23.8 per cent compared to a year earlier.
The NAR said it does not expect a sustained uptick in sales figures until the middle of 2008.