Economic Watch: Home Sales, Consumer Sentiment Rise as Fed Mulls Rake Hike – News

There are increasing signs the U.S. economy is gaining momentum in the first quarter of the year with gains in home sales and consumer confidence, but it is also fueling speculation that interest rates could head higher as soon as next month.

Sales of new homes surged 3.7% in January from the month before to an annual rate of 555,000, according to a Commerce Department report released Friday. That figure is also 5.5% better than for the same time a year ago.

The gains were less than a consensus estimate from analysts, but continued to point to a strengthening housing market despite higher prices and mortgage rates, according to Reuters.

The department revised downward its 2016 total to 561,000 new home sales, but it was still the best year since 2007 and a 12% improvement from 2015.

This follows a report from a couple of days earlier showing existing-home sales stepped out to a fast start in 2017, surpassing a recent cyclical high and increasing in January to the fastest pace in almost a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, expanded 3.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million in January, better than many analysts were expecting.

The pace is 3.8% higher than a year ago and surpasses November 2016 as the strongest since February 2007. The conjecture is that unseasonably mild…

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