Sales of new homes slipped 0.9 percent in January following four straight months of increases in which home sales rose 10 percent, the Commerce Department said.
Housing is a key cog in the economy and in freight volume. In addition to construction materials, housing sales generate consumer purchases of goods such as furniture, which comprise about 10 percent of U.S. containerized imports.
Containerized imports of furniture through U.S. ports dipped 1.1 percent last year to 1,673,993 twenty-foot-equivalent units, PIERS data show. December furniture volume rose 5 percent year-over-year to 144,679 TEUs.
Despite signs that the housing market may be starting to improve, the market remains weak as builders struggle with financing and sellers must compete with foreclosures and short sales in which houses are sold for less than the mortgage debt.
The Commerce Department said January new-home sales were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 321,000, following December’s revised number of 324,000. Last year’s new-home sales totaled just 304,000, the lowest number in records dating to 1963 and less than half the 700,000-per-year rate that economists say is consistent with a healthy market.