Having jumped 5.6 percent in November, the pace of existing-home sales in the U.S. dropped 3.6 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million transactions but the lower pace was still 1.1 percent higher on a year-over-year basis and the strongest December pace since 2006 when it was 17.6 percent higher (6.48 million).

At the same time, the median price of the homes that traded hands last month slipped 0.5 percent to $246,800 but remains 5.8 percent higher versus the same time last year, while the inventory of existing homes on the market dropped 11.4 percent to 1.48 million which is 10.3 percent lower on a year-over-year basis (versus 9.7 percent lower the month before).

And out West, the pace of existing-home sales declined 1.6 percent in December to an annual rate of 1.20 million sales, which was 0.8 percent lower versus the same time last year, while the median sale price dropped 2.1 percent to $367,400, which was 7.3 percent above the mark at the same time last year versus 8.2 percent higher in November.

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