The U.S. housing market has been the weakest link of the country's economic recovery from its recession, but new sales totals show the industry is rebounding.
Banks assumed ownership of millions of houses in the United States in the last few years as homeowners, many of them laid off from their jobs, were unable to make monthly loan payments. With a glut of previously owned houses for sale, values dropped throughout the country.
But now, the number of home sales is increasing. A real estate trade group, the National Association of Realtors, reported Wednesday that sales of existing homes in January and February reached the strongest pace since the start of 2007, even as the total dipped slightly last month.
Sales hit an annual average of about 4.6 million in each of the two months. The February pace was nearly 9 percent higher than a year ago, but the annual sales projection is still well below the 6 million figure that economists consider the sign of a healthy market.
Financial analysts said the early 2012 sales totals point to a gradually improving housing sector, especially as the country's businesses add thousands of more workers to their payrolls. That in turn could give more consumers enough confidence to make a home purchase.