Pending Home Sales Jump 3% in February

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) on Monday morning released its data on pending sales of existing homes for February. The pending home sales index rose 3.1% from a slightly downwardly revised index reading of 103.7 in January to the February reading of 106.9. That is 12% higher than in February 2014, when the index reading was 95.4. The February reading is the highest since June 2013 and marks the sixth consecutive month of year-over-year gains, with each month’s gain higher than the previous month’s.

The consensus estimate called for a month-over-month increase of 0.3% in pending sales. The index reflects signed contracts, not sales closings. An index reading of 100 equals the average level of contract signings during 2001. The index has been above 100 (the “average” reading) for 10 straight months.

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The NAR’s chief economist noted:

Pending sales showed solid gains last month, driven by a steadily-improving labor market, mortgage rates hovering around 4 percent and the likelihood of more renters looking to hedge against increasing rents. These factors bode well for the prospect of an uptick in sales in coming months. However, the underlying obstacle — especially for first-time buyers — continues to be the depressed level of homes available for sale.

Strong sales in the NAR’s Midwest and West regions more than outweighed smaller declines in the Northeast and South. Sales in the Midwest rose 11.6% to an index level of 110.4. West region sales climbed 6.6% to 102.1. Sales in the Northeast region slipped 2.3% and sales in the South fell 1.4%.

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