Home sales climb at end of poor year
WASHINGTON — Home sales rose in December to the highest pace in nearly a year. The gain coincides with other signs that show the troubled housing market improved at the end of last year. Still, sales remain depressed and ended 2011 well below healthy levels.
The National Association of Realtors said Friday that sales increased 5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million, the best level since January 2011 and the third consecutive monthly increase.
For the year, sales totaled only 4.26 million. While that’s up from 4.19 million the previous year, it’s below the 6 million economists equate with healthy housing markets.
The market is flashing other positive signs. Mortgage rates are at record-low levels. Homebuilders have grown slightly less pessimistic because more people are saying they might be open to buying a home this year. And home construction picked up in the final quarter of last year.
In other news
THE FEDERAL government ended its safety investigation into the Chevrolet Volt on Friday after concluding the Volt and other electric cars don’t pose a greater fire risk than gas-powered cars.
SUNTRUST BANKS INC.’S quarterly profit rose 33 percent in the fourth quarter, as the Southeastern bank earned more from lending and set aside less money to cover bad loans. SunTrust earned $152 million, or 28 cents a share, compared with $114 million, or 23 cents a share a year ago.
– From wire reports