June existing home sales rise by 3.6 percent

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. housing market has started to recover from the most far-reaching crisis since the Great Depression, data released Thursday shows.Sales of previously occupied homes rose for the third month in a row in June, the National Association of Realtors reported. That hasn’t happened since early 2004, during the boom.

“The turnaround in the housing market appears finally to be here and indeed may be gaining some speed,” wrote Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc.

Stocks jumped on the news, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising above 9,000 for the first time since early January.

Home sales rose 3.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million last month, from a downwardly revised pace of 4.72 million in May. Sales were up in all four regions of the country.

It was the highest level of sales since last October and beat economists’ expectations. Sales had been expected to rise to an annual pace of 4.84 million units, according to Thomson Reuters.

In another encouraging sign, the share of foreclosures on the market is shrinking. About one out of three homes sold in June was foreclosure-related, down from nearly half earlier this year.

And the glut of homes up for sale dwindled to 3.8 million. That’s a 9.4-month supply at the current sales pace and another important sign of a recovery. When the market balances at a 7-month supply prices should begin to stabilize, the Realtors’s group said.

That probably won’t happen until next year because of a backlog of foreclosures that have yet to come on to the market. The median sales price was $181,800 in June, down 15 percent from year-ago levels but up slightly from $174,700 in May.

Nevertheless, prices have risen for three straight months in about half of the 55 major metropolitan areas tracked by the Associated Press-Re/Max Housing Report, also released Thursday.