The number of existing homes in the U.S. under contract for sale fell in March, a decline that was widely expected.
The National Association of Realtors Wednesday morning said pending home sales, which represents contracts signed during the month, edged down 1% to 83.0 in March from a downwardly revised level of 83.8 in February and down 20.1% from a year ago.
The NAR believes a recovery in the housing market hinges on better access to affordable loans. "Things are beginning to improve, but the availability of affordable mortgages is uneven around the country and sometimes within metropolitan areas," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.
"As anticipated, we continue to look for a soft first half of the year, for both housing and the economy, before notable improvements in the second half," Yun said.
The NAR's data show a 12.5% jump in the Northeast, but the 80.8 figure remains 15.4% below a year ago. In the South, the index slipped 0.1% to 84.9 -- 26.7% lower than a year ago. In the West, the index declined 1.4% in March to 91.2 -- 9.5% below a year ago. And in the Midwest, the index fell 10.4% in March to 74.1 -- 22.3% below March 2007.
In recent trading Wednesday, homebuilders in general were trading lower.
was down 4.3% at $16.13,
was down 2.8% at $19.42,
was falling 2.4% to $14.18 and
was falling 1.8% to $22.72.
This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.