Ahead of the Bell: US home sales

October 22, 2015
US home sales rebound in September after August slump

FILE - In a Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, file photo, a realty sign hangs in front of a home for sale in Miami. The National Association of Realtors reports on sales of existing homes in September on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Association of Realtors reports on September sales of existing homes Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

SALES BUMP: Economists forecast that sales rose 1.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of almost 5.4 million, according to FactSet. The projected gains would be a slight rebound after the sales rate decreased in August to 5.3 million.

Still, sales would remain below the eight-year high of 5.6 million set in July. Rising home prices and a limited selection of homes on the market have recently begun to stifle sales, which had surged during the traditional summer buying season.

NEW PLATEAU?: Home purchases appear to have topped out, even though mortgage rates have stayed near historic lows and steady job growth has pulled the unemployment rate down to a healthy 5.1 percent. But rising sales prices and a meager supply of properties on the market have made affordability an obstacle for many would-be home buyers.

Home values have consistently grown faster than wages. The median sales price has climbed 4.7 percent over the past year to $228,700. The increase more than doubles the 2.2 percent growth in average hourly earnings. And many first-time homebuyers who put their down payment savings in the stock market have been coping with losses in a volatile market since August.

The number of available homes has fallen 1.7 percent in the past 12 months to only 2.29 million. That is equivalent to 5.2 months of supply at the current sales pace, below the six months that is typical of a balanced market.