As each week passes, the data on housing becomes more encouraging. This past week's data added to the good feelings.

Existing homes sales continue to post monthly gains, rising 3.4 percent in April to an annualized rate of 4.62 million units. If you go back to July 2011, you'll see a trend that is very noticeably up, with monthly sales trending 15-percent higher over the time period.

Perusing the existing home sales data a little deeper, we find many encouraging details. When local market prices are aggregated into the national number, we find the national median price has increased to $177,400 – a 10.1 percent improvement over the national median price in April 2011.

Strengthening home prices are surely the result of easing competition from distressed sales, which now comprise less than a third of total sales. Fewer lower-priced distressed properties in inventory obviously means less downward pricing pressure.

More seller interest is the corollary to less pricing pressure. The NAR reports that inventory increased to a 6.6-month supply in April from 6.3 months in March. A few commentators positioned the inventory increase as a negative, but we don't necessarily agree. Compared to last year, when inventory stood at a 9.1-month supply, 6.6 months is a vast improvement.

Composition of inventory is also worth considering, and the composition of existing-home inventory this year is of higher quality compared to last year. Better pricing invariably brings better homes to market. We’ve see pricier, higher quality homes hit the market over the past six months.

The trend in new home sales and pricing is also encouraging. New home sales increased 3.3 percent in April to an annualized rate of 343,000 units, easily beating the consensus estimate for 330,000 units. Meanwhile, the national median price of a new home rose to $235,700 compared to $234,000 in March and $224,700 in April 2011.

We don't see new-home prices backsliding any time soon. Inventory stands at a mere 146,000 homes, which is a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace. A dearth of inventory, coupled with a rising-price environment, means that anyone looking to buy a new home should think hard about procrastinating; rising demand plus shrinking inventory always equals higher prices.

That said, a few opinion leaders are less sanguine than we are, at least on prices. New York-based Fitch Ratings weighed in on the subject and said it sees another 7.8% drop in national home prices this year. In our opinion, that's an awfully steep (and unlikely) drop at the national level when you consider the vast improvement in many formerly forlorn markets – Phoenix, Miami, Detroit, Orlando – that are recovering vigorously.Bottom line, we still see no persuasive evidence to think the majority of housing markets aren't recovering and moving forward.

Courtesy of Jessica Regan.

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