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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After being one of the weaker sectors of the U.S. economy in the first half of 2019, the housing sector rebounded, spurred by a trio of U.S. interest rate cuts from the Fed that lowered the cost of mortgages.

Yes, but: There are clouds on the horizon for 2020, as declining home affordability continues to be a concern, especially for first-time home buyers.

  • The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $274,500, up almost 8% from December 2018, as prices rose in every region, NAR reported.
  • November’s price increase marked 94 straight months of year-over-year gains.

Flashback: U.S. existing-home sales rose 3.6% from November to an annual rate of 5.54 million in December and jumped nearly 11% from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors.

  • After a sluggish start to the year, following the government shutdown and rising mortgage rates, total home sales ended the year at 5.34 million, the same pace as in 2018.
  • The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.65% as of Jan. 16, according to Freddie Mac, down from 4.45% a year ago.

Watch this space: “Price appreciation has rapidly accelerated, and areas that are relatively unaffordable or declining in affordability are starting to experience slower job growth,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement.

  • “The hope is for price appreciation to slow in line with wage growth, which is about 3%.”

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Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

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The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

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