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U.S. pending home sales unexpectedly rise

Pending sales of previously owned U.S. homes unexpectedly rose in February, a trade group said Monday, pointing to a modest pick-up in home sales.
   
The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in February, increased 2.1 percent to 90.8.
   
Economists had expected the index, which leads existing home sales by a month or two, to fall 1.0 percent after a previously reported 2.8-percent decline.
   
"We may not see notable gains in existing-home sales in the near term, but they're expected to rise 5 to 10 percent this year with the economic recovery, job creation and excellent affordability conditions providing confidence to buyers who have been on the sidelines," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.
   
Compared to February last year, the index was down 8.2 percent.
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