In a sign the U.S. housing
could be stabilizing, contracts to purchase previously owned homes
rose in January, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The industry group said Monday that its Pending Home Sales Index
climbed 2 percent to 97 points in the first month of the year,
reaching its highest level since April 2010 when it hit 111.3.
Sales tend to follow newly signed contracts by about a month or
two, according to experts.
Pending home sales
in the U.S. have been trending upward, and data on building has
also been upbeat, bolstering hopes that a sustained recovery is
underway. Economists noted that the housing data is the latest in a
string of positive economic reports that could portend the future
strength of the nation's economy. Jobless claims have continued to
decline and consumer sentiment has picked up, bolstering such
"Given more favorable housing market conditions, the trend in
activity implies we are on track for a more meaningful sales gain
this year," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement.
"With a sustained downtrend in unsold
, this would bring about a broad price stabilization or even modest
national price growth, of course with local variations."
While the housing market has been bogged down amid an oversupply of
foreclosed and unsold homes, the number of new and previously owned
properties has fallen over the past few months, spurring hope that
the worst of the crisis is in the past.