Pending home sales improved in March

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 1.5% to 105.7 in March from a downwardly revised 104.1 in February, and is 7% above March 2012 when it was 98.8, according to the National Association of Realtors. Pending sales have been above year-ago levels for the past 23 months; the data reflect contracts but not closings.

"Contract activity has been in a narrow range in recent months, not from a pause in demand but because of limited supply," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Little movement is expected in near-term sales closings, but they should edge up modestly as the year progresses," he said. "Job additions and rising household wealth will continue to support housing demand."

The PHSI in the Northeast was unchanged at 82.8 in March and is 6.3% higher than March 2012. In the Midwest the index increased 0.3% to 103.8 in March and is 13.7% above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 2.7% to an index of 120.0 in March and are 10.4% higher than March 2012. In the West the index increased 1.5% in March to 102.9 but is 4.3% below a year ago.

Total existing-home sales are projected to increase 6.5% to 7% over 2012 to nearly 5 million sales this year, while the national median existing-home price is forecast to rise about 7.5%.