USA-ECONOMY/

(Reuters)

Pending Home Sales Jump More than Expected in April

Industries Dow Jones Newswires

A forward-looking gauge of U.S. home purchases rose for the fourth straight month in April and reached their highest level in nine years--the latest evidence of firming demand in the housing market.

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The National Association of Realtors said Thursday its pending home sales index, which is based on contract signings for purchases of previously owned homes, increased 3.4% to a seasonally adjusted level of 112.4 in April from an upwardly revised reading of 108.7 in March.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected pending home sales would rise 1% in April. Home sales typically close within a couple months after signing.

The index rose 14% in April from a year earlier. That was the eighth consecutive year-over-year increase, NAR said. The index is at its highest level since May 2006.

"Realtors are saying foot traffic remains elevated this spring despite limited--and in some cases severe--inventory shortages in many metro areas," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist.

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