U.S. existing home sales surge 4.4 percent in March

U.S. home resales rose more than expected in March to the highest level in more than a decade as more homes came on the market and were quickly snapped up by consumers.

The National Association of Realtors said on Friday that existing home sales increased 4.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million units last month.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales increasing 2.5 percent to a pace of 5.60 million units in March.

February's sales pace was revised slightly down to 5.47 million units. Sales were up 5.9 percent from March 2016, hitting their highest level since February 2007.

The housing recovery has been underpinned by falling unemployment and rising wages. The unemployment rate declined to 4.5 percent in March to near a 10-year low.

But demand is outstripping supply. While the number of homes on the market rose 5.8 percent to 1.83 million units last month, housing inventory was down 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Properties typically remained on the market for 34 days in March compared to 45 days in February, the NAR said.

At March's sales pace, it would take 3.8 months to clear the stock of houses on the market, unchanged from February.

"We had a housing shortage last year and in the early parts of 2017 the housing shortage has intensified," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said.

Housing inventory has dropped for 22 straight months on a year-on-year basis.

With supply still tight, the median house price rose 6.8 percent from one year ago to $236,400 in March, the 61st consecutive month of year-on-year price increases.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Paul Simao)