(NewsNation) — Rising interest rates are finally hitting the housing market hard.
Contracts to buy U.S. previously owned homes fell far more than expected in November, diving for a sixth straight month in the latest indication of the hefty toll the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes are taking on the housing market as the central bank seeks to curb inflation.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Wednesday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on signed contracts, fell 4% to 73.9 last month from October’s downwardly revised 77.0. November’s was the lowest reading – aside from the shortlived drop in the early months of the pandemic – since NAR launched the index in 2001.
Contracts declined in all four regions, led by a 7.9% drop in the Northeast. All four regions also recorded double-digit declines on a year-over-year basis, with contract signings in the West down by 45.7%, by far the largest regional drop.
The overall decline in signed contracts suggested that existing home sales would continue to fall after posting their 10th straight monthly decrease in November.
The housing market has suffered the most visible effects of aggressive Fed interest rate hikes that are aimed at curbing high inflation by undercutting demand in the economy. By the Fed’s preferred measure, inflation is still running nearly three times its 2% goal, having risen earlier in 2022 at its fastest pace in 40 years.
This month, the Fed raised rates again by half a percentage point, capping a year that saw its benchmark rate shoot from near zero in March to between 4.25% and 4.5% now – the swiftest rates have risen since the early 1980s. Fed officials projected rates would climb further in 2023, likely topping 5%.
Reuters contributed to this story.