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U.S. October existing home sales rise 1.4%

U.S. existing home sales unexpectedly rose in October as low interest rates for mortgages and rising rents led more homebuyers into the market, the National Association of Realtors said on Monday.

Sales climbed 1.4 percent to an annual rate of 4.97 million units from September's revised rate of 4.90 million, the NAR said. Forecasters in a Reuters poll had expected the annual rate to fall to 4.8 million.

Despite the modest increase in sales, the median sales price for existing homes was 4.7 percent lower in October than it was a year earlier.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said the increase in sales comes amid "several improving factors that generally lead to higher home sales such as job creation, rising rents and high affordability conditions."

The U.S. Federal Reserve has held short-term interest rates at nearly zero since 2008 and has expanded its balance sheet in a bid to get credit to businesses and households.

That has helped bring mortgage rates to near-record lows.

Still, while many other sectors of the economy have found their feet, housing continues to lag abysmally, held back by high rates of foreclosure and homes that have dropped dramatically in value.

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