WASHINGTON – Americans bought fewer new homes in June after sales jumped to a two-year high in May. The steep decline suggests a weaker job market and slower growth could make the housing recovery uneven.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that sales of new homes fell 8.4 percent last month from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 350,000. Thats the biggest drop since February 2011.
Sales in the Northeast plunged 60 percent in June to the lowest level since November.
Nationwide, sales in May and April were revised much higher. Junes sales pace is 15.1 percent higher than the same month last year. But sales remain well below the 700,000 annual rate that economists equate with healthy markets.
While a housing recovery is under way ... fits and starts are to be expected and clearly this summer is one of the fits, Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at BTIG LLC, said in a note to clients.
Home builder stocks fell sharply after the report came out. Hovnanian Enterprises fell 5 cents to $2.41, Beazer Homes fell 10 cents to $2.38 and Toll Brothers fell 60 cents to $29.84.
The housing market has started to show signs of recovery this year.
Builders are more confident and breaking ground on more homes. Mortgage rates are at record lows. And home prices nationwide have stabilized after losing a third of their value in the past six years. Sales of new and previously occupied homes have risen, although the increases have been choppy.
Sales of previously occupied homes fell in June to their lowest level since October. But sales were up 4.5 percent from a year ago, evidence that a modest recovery is still under way.
One trend that is holding back sales has been low inventories. There were 144,000 new homes for sale in June, just above Mays 143,000 – the lowest on records dating back to 1963.
At the current sales pace, it would take 4.9 months to exhaust the June supply. A six-month supply is generally considered healthy by economists.