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There’s another Fed meeting this week to grab everyone’s attention, but no one expects a hike in the Funds Rate quite yet. The FOMC statement will be closely examined to see how the nation’s central bank views our economic recovery. The housing part of that recovery will also be covered with Wednesday’s December New Home Sales, expected to be up slightly from the prior month. But Thursday’s Pending Home Sales for November should be down slightly for existing homes.

Thursday saw Existing Home Sales shoot up 12.3% in December, to an annual rate of 5.28 million, well ahead of the 4.87 million rate the consensus expected. Overall, existing home sales are off 2.9% compared to a year ago, but that’s when sales were artificially boosted by the homebuyer tax credits. All regions showed sales gains in single family homes, condos and coops.

The supply of existing homes dropped to 8.1 months from 9.5 months in November. The pace of existing home sales is up 38% since July and sales are now only around 5% off the long-term trend, which has been a 5.5 million annual pace. All this has happened without government tax credit support. Smart buyers don’t want to miss out on housing affordability that’s at its highest level in 40 years.

Down in Orlando, Florida, last week there were more housing market forecasts for the year just begun. Bottom line? Housing economists are cautiously optimistic about a recovery during 2011. These economists were presenting their views at the annual meeting of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). None of the experts see a robust upturn for housing. But they do feel that home sales, which have been in a bit of a stall, may start to recover soon.

The prevailing opinion is that the residential market should pick up in the spring, thanks to low mortgage rates and home prices at bargain levels. The NAHB’s chief economist feels that recent economic indicators are “signifying growing consumer confidence.” These indicators include job creations, good retail sales, and increasing purchases of big ticket items like cars and furniture. Freddie Mac’s chief economist sees home prices bottoming in the first six months. He expects mortgage rates to edge up slightly but still remain at historically low levels. Overall, home sales are forecast to be up from 4% to 10% year-over-year and for new construction to be up by 20%.

The latest report from housing market analyst Metrostudy found that new home starts in North Texas increased 12 percent last year.

More than 16,840 new homes were started in 2010. However, closings were down 6 percent, with 15,275 new home closings during that period.

“Homebuilders slowed their starts in the third and fourth quarters in response to the significant slowdown in new sales that began in May once the tax credit expired,” said David Brown, director of Metrostudy’s Dallas-Fort Worth office.

Frisco, McKinney and Little Elm had the largest jump in new home starts with a combined 39 percent and 710 homes. Frisco also led the way in overall market closings with a 22 percent gain to 220 homes.

Metrostudy anticipates starts to increase 10 to 15 percent in 2011.

“Homebuilders accelerated starts during the first half of 2010 in reaction to the homebuyer tax credit,” Brown said. “In the second half of the year they pulled back, especially for homes priced under $200,000. We should see starts begin to get back to a more normal seasonality in 2011.”

For the sixth year in a row, Texas leads the nation as the number one magnet state, reports Allied Van Lines.

Texas had the highest net relocation gain (inbound moves performed by Allied minus outbound moves).

The moving company’s report showed a net gain of 1,640, which is lower than last year’s performance but far outpaced all other states.

Allied attributes the states “magnetism” to its diverse, strong economy.

Last week saw the year finish on a high note for the housing market with Pending Home Sales for November coming in UP 3.5%, after this figure was expected to be down slightly for the month. This reading measures homes under contract, and therefore should point to an increase in closings in the January-February time frame.