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US existing home sales rise after 6 months of decline

Sales of existing homes rose in October after six months of decline (AFP Photo/SCOTT OLSON)

Washington (AFP) - Long-suffering sales of existing US homes rose in October for the first time since March but a low trend persisted, according to an industry survey released Wednesday.

The unexpected sales increase came despite rising interest rates and tight supplies, which drove up prices for the 80th straight month, although more slowly.

The overall housing sector, which economists say is often among the first to peak in an economic cycle, has stagnated or weakened for much of the year as construction and sales both slowed.

Housing is expected to contribute little to GDP growth in the fourth quarter.

The National Association of Realtors said home sales -- including town homes, condos, co-ops and single-family houses -- rose 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.2 million, more or less matching economists' expectations.

The result left the market 5.1 percent below October 2017.

"After six consecutive months of decline, buyers are finally stepping back into the housing market," NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement, pointing to faster sales in the Northeast, South and West.

Inventories fell slightly for the month to 1.85 million homes on the market but this was up from the 1.8 million year-ago level.

This represented a 4.3 month supply at the current pace -- down from September but up from October 2017.

The median price rose 3.8 percent from its year-ago level to $255,400.

"As more inventory enters the market and we head into the winter season, home price growth has begun to slow more meaningfully," said Yun.