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Data: National Association of REALTORS; Chart: Axios Visuals

Existing-home sales fell 6.6% in February from the previous month, but sales are still 9.1% higher than last year, per the National Association of Realtors.

By the numbers: Despite sales falling to a six-month low, the median existing-home sales price rose to $313,000, 15.8% higher than February 2020, with all regions posting double-digit price gains,

Between the lines: Housing inventory in February fell to a record low of 1.03 million units, down by 29.5% year over year — the fastest decline on record.

  • Properties typically sold in 20 days, which was also a record, NAR said, and homes with price tags between $250,000 and $500,000 were on the market for just 14 days.

The big picture: Rising mortgage rates are putting housing out of reach for an increasing share of the population, however dwindling supply likely means prices will continue to go up even as the rate of sales in the market declines.

What to watch: Even with the housing market's sour turn to start 2021, most real estate economists are expecting it to be a banner year.

  • Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says he's forecasting this year's sales to outpace 2020's torrid pace, noting in the organization's press release accompanying the data that even after the pullback in February, "the market is still outperforming pre-pandemic levels."
  • The Mortgage Bankers Association similarly is expecting record mortgage purchase originations at $1.57 trillion this year, a spokesman told me last week.

What it means: The housing market is looking a lot like the stock market.

  • While bullish industry analysts like to crow about reopening, vaccines and unleashed reserves, the market is actually being driven by wealthy investors who see few alternatives and are increasingly willing to park their cash in real estate as demand for assets with a real return far outpaces the supply, regardless of the price level.

Go deeper

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

This arthritis drug cost $198 in 2008. Now it's more than $10,000

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In 2008, a box of 30 anti-inflammatory rectal suppositories that treats arthritis, called Indocin, had a price tag of $198. As of Oct. 1, the price of that same box was 52 times higher, totaling $10,350.

Why it matters: As federal lawmakers continue to waver on drug price reforms, Indocin is another example of how nothing prevents drug companies from hiking prices at will and selling them within a broken supply chain.