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Pending home sales were down slightly in February but remain notably above the pattern in the first half of last year, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, eased 0.5 percent to 96.5 in February from 97.0 in January but is 9.2 percent above February 2011 when it was 88.4. The data reflects contracts but not closings.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says we’re seeing the continuation of an uneven but higher sales pattern. “The spring home buying season looks bright because of an elevated level of contract offers so far this year,” he says. “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years. Based on all of the factors in the current market, that’s what we’re expecting with sales rising 7 to 10 percent in 2012.”

The PHSI in the Northeast slipped 0.6 percent to 77.7 in February but is 18.4 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index jumped 6.5 percent to 93.8 and is 19.0 percent higher than February 2011. Pending home sales in the South fell 3.0 percent to an index of 105.8 in February but are 7.8 percent above a year ago. In the West the index declined 2.6 percent in February to 99.3 and is 1.8 percent below February 2011.

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.