Financial Report: Current-home gross sales stage their first enhance in six months in October

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Scott Teel carries a ‘for sale’ sign out of a garage in Moore, Oklahoma.

The numbers: Existing-home sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.22 million in October, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. That was up 1.4% for the month, marking the first monthly increase in six months.

What happened: Sales of previously-owned homes finally perked up, beating the MarketWatch consensus forecast of a 5.18 million selling pace. Still, October’s rate of sales was 5.1% lower than a year ago. The median sales price in October was $255,400, up 3.8% versus a year ago, one of the lowest yearly increases in a long time.

Homes stayed on the market an average of 33 days in October, and first-time buyers made up 31% of all purchases, still below the long-term average of 40%.

Sales in the Northeast increased 1.5%, while sales in the South rose 1.9%. In the West, sales jumped 2.8%. The Midwest was the only region to pull back in October, with a 0.8% decline.

Big picture: At the current pace of sales, it would take 4.3 months to exhaust available supply, a tick lower than the 4.4 months’ worth of unsold inventory notched last month, but still better than the conditions that likely caused many buyers to give up and exit the market late last year and early in 2018.

For some context, the long-term average that’s considered a sign of a “balanced” market is six months worth of inventory; in February, there were 3.4 months’ worth of unsold homes. With so much demand, it’s not clear that any easing of the supply crunch won’t be met with a massive wave of buying that could even push prices to re-accelerate.

Also read: This chart shows the haves and have-nots of the housing market, and it’s getting worse

What they’re saying: Deteriorating conditions in the housing market are catching the eye of top policymakers. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell last week said it was a concern, and caused not only by higher interest rates, but also chronic shortages of labor and land.

Market reaction: The 10-year U.S. Treasury note

TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.30%

  has rallied over the past week, offering a brief respite to anyone applying for a mortgage. But if global stock markets continue to churn, that may take a toll on Americans’ confidence and make them less likely to make a major purchase like a home. The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.57%

  is down about 1% in the year to date, but that measurement masks a lot of volatility.

Also see: As the housing market stagnates, American homeowners are staying put for the longest stretches ever

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