Analysts say stability in the housing sector is key to any recovery in the US economy, which has been in a recession since late last year.

Retailers' stocks slipped after a survey showed stores had their lowest turnout in at least six years during the last weekend before Christmas.

Retailers remained in focus in the last few days before the Christmas holiday, after a survey released on Tuesday showed that just 38.7 per cent of Americans went shopping during the final weekend before Christmas, usually among the busiest shopping weekends of the year.