Despite expectations that they would fall, existing-home sales rose 2.7 percent in January, the third consecutive monthly gain and the first time in seven months that sales activity was higher than the year before. According to data from The National Association of Realtors, sales increased 5.3 percent from January 2010. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the improvement is good and is consistent with improvements in the overall economy and the jobs market. Because of an increase in sales of distressed homes, the national median existing-home price was down 3.7 percent from last year. Total housing inventory also fell, dropping 5.1 percent, which is the lowest level since December 2009. More here and here.