Pending home sales rise 2.4% in February

Coronavirus pandemic is likely to derail the housing market as layoffs surge and the economy falters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Contracts to buy previously owned homes rose for the second straight month in February, the National Association of Realtors said on Monday.

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The NAR's pending home sales index increased to a reading of 111.5, up 2.4% from the prior month. January's index was revised slightly to 108.9 from 108.8.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast pending home sales falling 1.0% last month.

Pending home contracts generally are seen as a forward-looking indicator of the health of the housing market because they become sales one to two months later.

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(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File) (Associated Press)

But Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, noted that the data did not capture the significant fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which is likely to derail the housing market as layoffs surge and the economy falters.

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U.S. existing home sales surged to a 13-year high in February, data earlier this month showed. Compared to one year ago, pending sales were up 9.4% in February.

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(Reporting by Andrea Ricci, Editing by Franklin Paul)