WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Contracts to buy U.S. previously owned homes fell for a second straight month in December amid record low inventory.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Thursday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on signed contracts, dropped 3.8% last month to 117.7. Pending home sales fell in all four regions.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast contracts, which become sales after a month or two, dipping 0.2%. Pending home sales decreased 6.9% in December on a year-on-year basis.
"Pending home sales faded toward the end of 2021, as a diminished housing supply offered consumers very few options," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.
An acute shortage of previously owned homes is hampering sales. Despite rising mortgage rates, which together with high home prices are reducing affordability, demand for housing is likely to remain strong this year.
"The market will likely endure a minor reduction in sales as mortgage rates continue to edge higher," said Yun.
A total of 6.12 million previously owned homes were sold in 2021, the most since 2006 and up 8.5% from 2020.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday said it is likely to start raising interest rates in March to tame high inflation.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)