We’ve written extensively about the flagging U.S. housing market, and earlier this week we finally bit the bullet and declared the housing “recovery” to be over … you know, to the extent it ever really began.

R.I.P., American dream.

Anyway the National Association of Realtors released its existing home sales data for January 2014 this week – with the big ticket takeaway being a 5.1 percent drop (from 4.87 million in December to 4.62 million last month).

That’s worse than the 4.1 percent decline analysts expected – and marks the slowest month for existing home sales since July 2012.

Cue the reflexive “blame the weather” song and dance …

“Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said.

Oh brother …

To his credit, Yun wasn’t in total denial regarding the evaporating strength of his industry.

“At the same time, we can’t ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates,” he added. “These issues will hinder home sales activity until the positive factors of job growth and new supply from higher housing starts begin to make an impact.”

Ready for the real downer in this report?

“First-time buyers accounted for 26 percent of purchases in January, down from 27 percent in December and 30 percent in January 2013,” the NAR concluded. “This is the lowest market share for first-time buyers since NAR began monthly measurement in October 2008; normally, they should be closer to 40 percent.”

Ouch  …

Meanwhile the number of homes being scooped up by investors empowered by the Federal Reserve’s loose monetary policy continued to climb.

“All-cash sales comprised 33 percent of transactions in January, up from 32 percent in December and 28 percent in January 2013,” the NAR report found.

And the beat goes on …