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Existing home sales off in 40 states, slide nationwide

A view of a neighborhood in the town of Superior, Colorado, a Denver suburb February 27, 2006. Weakness in the U.S. housing market showed no signs of abating through the end of 2006 as sales slid in 40 states and prices dropped in metro regions with major price gains in recent years, a real estate trade association said on Thursday. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Weakness in the U.S. housing market showed no signs of abating through the end of 2006 as sales slid in 40 states and prices dropped in metro regions with major price gains in recent years, a real estate trade association said on Thursday.

Several Florida metro regions registered a double-digit decline in sale prices in the last three months of the year, while prices in the San Diego region fell 4.5 percent and in Washington, DC, they fell 2.6 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Sales across the nation dropped 10.1 percent from October through December compared with the same period in 2005.

The decline across the Western states was the largest, with sales 17.8 percent lower than the year-ago period.

In Arizona they fell 26.9 percent while California clocked a 21.3 percent decline. Nevada -- the state with the sharpest decline -- registered a 36.1 percent drop.

In Florida, sales were off 30.8 percent.

Single-family homes values declined nationwide, with the median sales price off 2.7 percent, NAR said. The national median price of an existing single-family home was $219,300 at the end of the fourth quarter, compared with $225,300 a year earlier.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said the drop in sales and prices signaled the bottom of the housing downturn.

“This information confirms 2006 was the year of contraction, and hopefully the fourth quarter was the bottom of this current business cycle,” he said in a statement.

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