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U.S. new home sales surge in November

January 2, 2002
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The government said U.S. residential real estate seemed recession-resistant in November as homebuyers snapped up new houses at the fastest pace since March.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Commerce Department said the U.S. residential real estate sector remained recession-resistant in November, as homebuyers snapped up new houses at the fastest pace since March.

The government said new homes sales rose 6.4 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted 934,000 annual rate, its quickest clip since March's 953,000 annual rate. The gain was the largest monthly percentage jump since December 2000.

The figures were stronger than Wall Street analysts had expected, and showed the impact of relatively low mortgage interest rates combined with unseasonably warm weather for the month. In a survey of economists by Reuters, the average forecast called for home sales to post a much smaller rise to about an 888,000 annual rate.

Aided by low interest rates, the housing market has stayed relatively robust in the face of the U.S. recession that began in March. According to mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac, the interest rate on 30-year mortgage loans averaged 6.66 percent in November, but has crept up in December.

Within the recent Commerce Department new home sales report, three of the four regions saw gains: The South saw sales increase 7.7 percent to a 478,000 annual rate; the Midwest, a sales gain of 13.1 percent to a 173,000 yearly rate. The Northeast, the smallest new homes market, saw sales gain 6.1 percent while the West region was the only one to see a decline, as sales fell by 0.9 percent.

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