28 January 2003, 10:26   US home sales jump 5.2pc in December

Sales of existing homes in the US rose in December, consolidating the property market's position as one of the strongest sectors in the struggling economy. Existing home sales rose 5.2pc in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.86 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors. On a year-on-year basis, existing home sales were up 12.7pc. The monthly increase in December sales was better than expected and the fastest annual pace since February 2002. "It appears the economy will lean heavily on the housing sector" in 2003, said David Lereah, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. "The housing sector continues to be healthy in a weak economy." Government figures due on Thursday are expected to show that the US economy grew by 0.9pc on an annualised basis in the fourth quarter 2002. US consumers bought 5.56 million houses last year, up from 5.3 million in 2001. The Realtors forecasts a slight decline this year, but say that an estimated 5.34 million existing homes will be sold in 2003. //www.fxcentre.com

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