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Economic Calendar |  Index of Calendar Terms

Economic Calendar Terms

Existing Home Sales

The name speaks for itself - this report provides a measure of the level of sales of existing home sales. The report is considered a decent indicator of activity in the housing sector. Housing starts precede this report each month, but starts are a supply rather than demand-side indicator. Existing home sales precede the other key demand-side indicator of housing - new home sales - thus boosting the visibility of this report. Sales are highly dependent on mortgage rates, and will tend to react with a few months lag to changes in rates. Sales are also determined by the level of pent-up demand for housing - immediately after a recession, sales are typically quite strong due to the demand which accumulated through the recession.

The survey sample for existing home sales is larger than that of new home sales, making it somewhat less susceptible to large revisions. Both reports can see huge month-to-month swings in winter, when bad weather can significantly affect sales.

Aside from total sales, two other indicators are worth watching in this report -- the inventory of homes for sale and the median price. The inventory of homes for sale at the current sales pace is the inventory/sales ratio of the housing sector. For example, a 5.0 figure for inventory/sales indicates that the supply of homes for sale would be depleted within five months at the current sales pace. The lower this figure goes, the greater the need for new housing starts. The year/year change in the median price provides a good indication of inflation in home prices.

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