Existing Home Sales Edge Up, Consumer Confidence at 8-Month High

Sales of existing homes posted a small increase in November but the price of homes sold fell, a real estate trade group reported Thursday.

The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of previously owned homes rose 0.6 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.28 million units. That followed a 0.5 percent sales increase in October and marked the first back-to-back sales gains since the spring of 2005.

The slight increases in sales were not enough to halt a slide in home prices. The median price for an existing home sold in November dropped to $218,000, down 3.1 percent from the price a year ago.

The report on existing home sales offered further hope that the serious slump in housing that has occurred this year may be bottoming out.

It followed a report Wednesday that showed that new home sales rose 3.4 percent in November, the third gain in the past four months.

David Lereah, chief economist for the Realtors, said he believed that September's sales activity may represent the low point for sales this cycle but he cautioned that home prices would probably continue declining for a few more months.

In other economic news, U.S. consumer confidence rebounded in December, rising to an eight-month high as consumers' view of the labor market improved, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Conference Board reported that consumer confidence posted a solid gain in December, rising to 109.0 compared to a November reading of 105.3.

A third report showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits edged up to 317,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week, a smaller gain than economists had expected.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.