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Harsh weather, tight supply sink U.S. home sales

An existing home for sale is seen in Silver Spring MarylandBy Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Severe cold weather and a shortage of houses on the market pushed U.S. home resales to an 18-month low in January, the latest indication economic activity has hit a soft patch. The National Association of Realtors said on Friday that home sales dropped 5.1 percent last month to an annual rate of 4.62 million units, the lowest level since July 2012. The Realtors group said unseasonably cold weather was partly to blame, but it also acknowledged some fundamental weakness, with fewer homes on the market to choose from and higher mortgage rates and prices reducing affordability. "Some housing activity will be delayed until spring," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Canada house prices rise in January to record high

To match ANALYSIS CANADA-HOUSING/By Andrea Hopkins TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian home prices rose to a record high in January as Vancouver prices surged, the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index showed on Wednesday, even as other housing indicators have shown a cooling market. Canada's housing market had roared back to life through much of 2013 after a 2012 slowdown, but was showing signs of cooling in the final months of last year, and economists have been calling for a soft landing as construction and demand slow and price gains decelerate. "Despite the uptick in home prices, we maintain the view that prices will soften," Mazen Issa, senior Canada macro strategist at TD Securities, said in a research note. "Very favorable financial conditions are expected to erode as continued tapering by the Federal Reserve and a more robust growth backdrop lead to higher mortgage rates." In October, the Bank of Canada dropped its policy tightening bias, increasing expectations that official interest rates will remain at historically low levels for longer than had been thought.

Canadian housing starts slow modestly in January

By Andrea Hopkins TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian housing starts fell more than expected in January, data released on Monday showed, reinforcing the view that the country’s housing market is stabilizing after a recent boom. Starts slowed to 180,248 units last month at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, a report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp showed, shy of the 184,000 forecast by economists. The January figure continues a trend that has seen groundbreakings slow from 187,923 units in 2013 and the breakneck pace of 214,827 starts in 2012, when the housing market was at record highs and the government intervened to tighten mortgage lending rules. Economists are largely predicting a softer but stable Canadian market this year as mortgage rates edge higher and the economy continues to chug along slowly.

Canada housing agency sees stable starts, prices in 2014

To match ANALYSIS CANADA-HOUSING/By Andrea Hopkins TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada's federal housing agency nudged up its forecast for housing starts and prices in 2014 and said sales and construction will be steady to higher in 2015 as an improving economy tempers the impact of rising mortgage rates. The view from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp suggests the nation's once-roaring housing market is settling into a soft landing, with construction moderating to more sustainable levels and sales and prices ticking slowly higher. The CMHC said on Thursday housing starts will be in a range of 176,600 and 199,800 in 2014, with a point forecast, or most likely outcome, of 187,300 units, relatively unchanged from 187,923 units in 2013. That is up slightly from CMHC's October estimate of 184,700 starts.

U.S. home sales end losing streak, jobless claims rise

Job seekers wait to meet potential employers at career fair at Rutgers University in New BrunswickBy Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. home resales rose in December after three straight months of declines, showing some resilience in the housing market recovery despite higher mortgage rates. While other data on Thursday showed a marginal rise in first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week and a slowdown in factory activity this month, the underlying trend continued to point to better economic fundamentals. Existing home sales rose 1 percent last month to an annual rate of 4.87 million units, the National Association of Realtors said. "The recent housing market slowdown is being exacerbated by transitory factors such as weather," said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York.

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