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U.S. Pending Home Sales Unexpectedly Jump 2.4% In February

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Pointing to a healthy housing market before the coronavirus-induced shutdown, the National Association of Realtors released a report on Monday showing an unexpected jump in pending home sales in the month of February.

NAR said its pending home sales index surged up by 2.4 percent to 111.5 in February after spiking by 5.3 percent to an upwardly revised 108.9 in January. The continued increase surprised economists, who had expected pending home sales to pull back by 1.0 percent.

A pending home sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

However, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun noted the latest data does not capture the significant fallout from the coronavirus pandemic or the measures taken to control the outbreak.

"Numbers in the coming weeks will show just how hard the housing market was hit, but I am optimistic that the upcoming stimulus package will lessen the economic damage and we may get a V-shaped robust recovery later in the year," Yun said.

The unexpected increase in pending home sales reflected growth in all four regions, with pending sales in the West and Midwest jumping by 4.6 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.

Pending home sales in the Northeast also advanced by 2.8 percent, while pending sales in the South inched up by 0.1 percent.

Last Tuesday, the Commerce Department released a separate report showing new home sales pulled back sharply in the month of February.

The Commerce Department said new home sales tumbled by 4.4 percent to an annual rate of 765,000 in February after spiking by 10.5 percent to an upwardly revised rate of 800,000 in January.

With the upward revision, the annual rate of new home sales in January was the highest since reaching 842,000 in May of 2007.

Economists had expected new home sales to slump by 1.8 percent to a rate of 750,000 from the 764,000 originally reported for the previous month.

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