From the WSJ:
A forward-looking gauge of U.S. home purchases rose in January to its highest level in nearly a year and a half, a sign of firming demand in the housing market.
The National Association of Realtors said Friday that its pending home sales index, which is based on contract signings for purchases of existing homes, increased 1.7% to a seasonally adjusted level of 104.2 in January from an upwardly revised reading of 102.5 in December.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected pending home sales would rise 2% last month after dipping in December. Home sales typically close within a couple months after signing.
“Through the volatility, the trend in home sales is up probably up modestly at least,” High Frequency Economics chief U.S. economist Jim O’Sullivan said in a note to clients.
The index rose 8.4% in January from a year earlier and reached its highest level since August 2013, when home sales were tumbling after a jump in mortgage rates.
According to Friday’s report, pending sales of existing homes rose 3.2% in the South last month from December, and climbed 2.2% in the West. Pending sales ticked up 0.1% in the Northeast and fell 0.7% in the Midwest.