Contracts to buy U.S. previously owned homes rebounded by the most on record in May, suggesting the housing market was starting to turn around after being hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic along with the rest of the economy.
Other data on Monday showed an improvement in manufacturing activity in Texas in June after three months of record or near-record declines in output. But surging infections of the respiratory illness in many regions, including the densely populated Texas, Florida and California, pose a risk to the nascent recovery. The economy fell into recession in February.
The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, surged 44.3%, the largest gain since the series started in 2001.
Still, contracts remain 10.6% below their level in February before businesses were shuttered in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, almost grounding the economy to a halt.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast pending home contracts, which become sales after a month or two, rebounding 18.9% in May.
Pending home sales fell 5.1% from a year ago. Home resales tumbled to a more than 9-1/2-year low in May. Economists believe the housing market could emerge more quickly from the recession, which started in February, thanks to historic low interest rates.