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U.S. pending home sales rise in March; first gain in nine months

Pending home sales rose in March, as the national housing market showed signs of life at the start of the spring buying season.

The 3.4% jump from February marked the first increase in nine months, the National Assn. of Realtors said Monday. The trade group’s pending-sales index covers contracts signed but not closed.

Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, said a gain was to be expected after severe weather across much of the nation depressed sales in past months.

“Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy,” he said in a statement.

Pending sales, which are adjusted for seasonal swings, rose from February in all regions except the Midwest. In the West, pending sales climbed 5.7% last month.

Though buyers signed more contracts last month than February, pending sales were down 7.9% compared with March 2013. The year-over-year decline indicates that would-be buyers are still struggling with prices and mortgage rates that are higher than a year earlier.

Contracts for previously owned homes usually close in one to two months, when they show up in the Realtors group's existing-home sales report.

Citing the slow sales figures so far this year, the Realtors group said existing-home sales are likely to come in below last year’s figure of 5.1 million.


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