Contracts to buy U.S. previously owned homes fell far more than expected in November, diving for a sixth straight month in the latest indication of the hefty toll the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes are taking on the housing market as the central bank seeks to curb inflation.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Wednesday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on signed contracts, fell 4% to 73.9 last month from October's downwardly revised 77.0. November's was the lowest reading - aside from the shortlived drop in the early months of the pandemic - since NAR launched the index in 2001.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast contracts, which become sales after a month or two, would fall 0.8%. Pending home sales dropped 37.8% in November on a year-on-year basis.
"Pending home sales recorded the second-lowest monthly reading in 20 years as interest rates, which climbed at one of the fastest paces on record this year, drastically cut into the number of contract signings to buy a home," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Falling home sales and construction have hurt broader economic activity."