Sales of previously owned U.S. homes suffered a record drop last month as the boost from a popular tax credit waned, raising doubts the housing market recovery can be sustained without government support.


The National Association of Realtors said yesterday that existing home sales fell 16.7 percent in December to an annual rate of 5.45 million units. It was the sharpest decline on records dating to 1968 and the slowest sales pace since August.


Analysts, who had expected a 5.90 million unit pace, said the slump month underscored the degree to which the housing market recovery was reliant on government aid.