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October home sales dip in latest sign of cooling

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Sales of existing homes in Canada fell in October from September and year-over-year sales were down as well, the Canadian Real Estate Association said on Thursday in the latest signal that the housing market is slowing.

The industry group for Canadian real estate agents said sales were down 0.1 percent in October from September. Actual sales for October, not seasonally adjusted, were down 0.8 percent from a year earlier.

The housing market, which roared higher in 2011 and the first half of 2012, started to slow after the government tightened rules on mortgage lending in July in a bid to cool the market and prevent home buyers from taking on too much debt.

"Little has changed since national activity geared down in the wake of mortgage rules that came into force in July," Gregory Klump, CREA's chief economist, said in a statement.

"Opinions differ about how sharply sales have slowed depending on the local housing market."

CREA said markets in the resource-rich western provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were gaining strength, while the big markets of Toronto and Vancouver were losing steam.

Led by Calgary, sales were up from a year earlier in almost two-thirds of local markets. Sales remained below year-earlier levels in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, CREA said.

"These results suggest that the Canadian housing market overall has returned to a more sustainable pace," Klump said.

CREA's Home Price Index rose 3.6 percent in October from a year earlier, the sixth consecutive month in which gains in prices slowed, and the slowest rate of increase since May 2011.

A total of 402,322 homes traded hands via Canadian MLS systems over the first 10 months of 2012, up 0.8 percent from the same period last year and 0.4 percent below the 10-year average for the period, the data showed.

The number of newly listed homes fell 3.8 percent in October following a jump in September. Monthly declines were reported in almost two-thirds of local markets, with Toronto and Vancouver exerting a large influence on the national trend.

Nationally, there were 6.5 months of inventory at the end of October, little changed from the reading of 6.4 months at the end of September.

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