New U.S. single-family home sales fell only slightly in January despite big declines in the snow-battered Northeast while supply rose to its highest level since 2010, hopeful signs for a sluggish housing market. The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that sales dipped 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000 units. December’s sales pace was revised up to 482,000 units, the highest level since June 2008, from 481,000 units.
“We are still taking sort of a meandering, bumpy path towards recovery. We expect housing will improve later this year due to the improvement in the labor market and credit conditions,” said Stephanie Karol, a U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. Sales were likely held back by snow storms in the Northeast, where sales recorded their biggest drop since June 2012.
Economists had forecast new home sales, which account for about 9.1 percent of the housing market, falling to a 470,000-unit pace last month. Compared to January of 2014, sales were up 5.3 percent. The housing index .HGX rose marginally, outperforming a broadly flat U.S. stock market. Shares in Lowe’s Cos Inc (LOW.N), the No. 2 U.S. home improvement chain, fell 0.64 percent despite reporting same-store sales well above analysts’ estimates.