Pending Home Sales Unexpectedly Fall

Pending sales of existing U.S. homes dropped for a third successive month during September, a real estate industry group reported on Thursday, though a sales index was above year-ago levels.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in September, was down 4.6 percent to 84.5.

Economists polled by Reuters ahead of the report were expecting sales to edge up 0.1 percent rather than to decline.

Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist, noted the index was still above its level in September 2010 of 79.4 but said the housing market was constrained by numerous factors.

"A combination of weak consumer confidence and continuing tight lending criteria held back home buyers, even though the private sector added nearly two million net new jobs in the past 12 months," Yun said.

Pending home sales in September fell in every region of the country from August levels.