(Existing-home sales article updated with additional data and commentary.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday morning that existing home sales fell 27.2% in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million units. Economists had expected the figure to come in at 4.72 million units, compared with a downwardly revised 5.26 million in June.

Sales were at the lowest level since the total existing-home sales series launched in 1999, the report said. Single-family homes were at the lowest level since May of 1995, plummeting 27.1% in July to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 3.37 million, from a pace of 4.62 million in June, and 25.6% below year-earlier levels. Single-family homes account for the bulk of all existing home sales.

"The numbers are worse than I thought they would be," ConvergEx Group chief market strategist Nicholas Colas told TheStreet. "The threat of a double dip seems to grow with every economic data point."

The Dow Jones industrial average was down by more than 100 points on the data. "Fears of another leg down in real estate are certainly weighing on hopes for broad based economic recovery," Colas noted. **

The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ( XHB), an exchange-traded fund that tracks the homebuilder sector, dropped sharply after the housing data was released but was 0.1% higher in late-afternoon trading. Shares of Lennar ( LEN), among the XHB's top holdings, jumped 2.4%, while fellow builders KB Home ( KBH) and Ryland ( RYL) gained nearly 3%.

>>Existing-Home Sales: Winners and Losers

Toll Brothers is due to report its quarterly earnings Wednesday. The builder is expected to book a loss of $24.3 million, or 14 cents loss per share, on revenue of $396.6 million.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said soft home sales will likely continue for several more months.

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