WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of previously occupied homes likely slipped a bit in May after a solid increase in April.
The consensus view of economists was that sales dipped 0.9 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.58 million units, according to a survey by FactSet. The report will be released at 10 a.m. Eastern time Thursday.
In April, sales of previously occupied homes rose 3.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million units, nearly matching the January sales pace, which had been the best in two years.
Even with the sales gain in April, however, sales remain well below the 6 million-a-year annual pace that is considered healthy. But at least the housing market is showing signs of slowly recovering even as other areas of the economy have weakened.
Many economists believe the housing market is starting to turn around nearly five years after the housing bubble burst.
Builders are more confident and are starting to build more homes. The government reported Tuesday that builders started work on more single-family homes in May and requested the most permits to build homes and apartments in 3 and a half years.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index climbed in June to a reading of 29, the highest it has been since May 2007 although it is still well below the 50 level that indicates builder sentiment is in positive territory.
The housing market is also being supported by record low mortgage rates. And the Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it was extending for another six months its program to sell short-term securities and buy longer-term Treasury securities as a way of putting more downward pressure on long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates.
Even with the low rates, many would-be buyers are having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can't afford the larger down payments being required by banks.
And the Fed acted to give the economy a boost because the job market has weakened considerably in recent months. Employers created just 69,000 jobs in May. Since averaging a healthy 252,000 jobs a month from December through February, job growth has slowed to a lackluster 96,000 a month average.
The concern is that if job growth does not rebound that will hurt home sales, consumer spending and overall economic growth.