Sales of previously owned U.S. houses probably rose in January to the highest level since May 2010, adding to signs the housing market is regaining its footing, economists said before a report today.
Purchases climbed 1.1 percent, a fourth straight monthly increase, to a 4.66 million annual rate from a 4.61 million pace in December, according to the median forecast of 74 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
A strengthening job market, combined with record affordability driven by the drop in home prices and mortgage rates, will probably keep underpinning demand. Nonetheless, the Federal Reserve and Obama administration are striving to find ways to lend the industry additional assistance amid concern that mounting foreclosures will continue to hinder the recovery.
“Things are beginning to pick up here,” said Kevin Cummins, an economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “We will see better home sales data in coming months. With healthier gains in payrolls, incomes should be picking up as well. That’s going to spill over.”
The National Association of Realtors’ data are due at 10 a.m. in Washington. Economists’ estimates ranged from 4.4 million to 4.91 million.
Existing-home sales, tabulated when a contract closes, climbed to 4.26 million last year, from 4.19 million in 2010. Demand peaked at 7.1 million in 2005 during the housing boom. In 2008, sales totaled 4.1 million, the least since 1995.
The fourth-warmest January on record may have boosted homebuyer traffic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the average temperature was 36.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.39 Celsius), 5.5 degrees above the 1901-2000 long- term average.