U.S. home resales rose in December after three straight months of declines, showing some resilience in the housing market recovery despite higher mortgage rates. While other data on Thursday showed a marginal rise in first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week and a slowdown in factory activity this month, the deterioration was not enough to change the picture of an improving economy. Sales of previously owned homes rose 1% last month to an annual rate of 4.87 million units, the National Association of Realtors said. The sales pace, however, was slower than economists' forecast and some blamed frigid weather. Sales fell in the Northeast and the Midwest, which suffered the brunt of cold weather in December. Sales in 2013 were the highest since 2006 and prices increased 11.5%, the biggest advance since 2005. Existing home sales lost steam late in the summer as a run-up in mortgage rates and a shortage of properties sidelined potential buyers. December's rise added to pending and new home sales data in offering signs of a tentative pick-up in activity. In a separate report, the U.S. Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits ticked up 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 326,000 last week. The four-week average for new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 3,750 to 331,500. That suggested the labour market continued to steadily improve.
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