Home sales fall sharply; Wall St. slides

February 25, 2009 7:24:03 AM PST
Another steep drop in home sales has dashed some hopes that the housing market would start to show some improvement.

A real estate group's report that sales of existing homes fell in January to the lowest level in nearly 12 years is fanning a drop in stocks led by financial companies.

The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes fell 5.3 percent to an annual rate of 4.49 million last month, from 4.74 million units in December. It was the worst showing since July 1997.

Wall Street had expected sales would rise.

The Dow Jones industrial average is down 140 at the 7,210 level. The blue chips had been down about 85 ahead of the report. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is down 16 at 757. The Nasdaq composite index is down 30 at 1,411.

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