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Jan. pending home sales hit nearly two-year high

Jan. pending home sales hit nearly two-year high (by Steve Goldstein)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Pending home sales climbed 2% in January to the highest level since April 2010, when buyers were taking advantage of a now-expired tax credit. The pending-home-sales index rose to 97.0 from a downwardly revised 95.1 reading in December, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday. Even without the revision, the index would have shown growth, as December's index initially was reported as 96.6. Compared to January 2011, pending home sales were up 8%. The data reflects contracts but not closings, and the percentage of real-estate agents who report at least one cancellation has hovered around 33% over the last few months. "Given more favorable housing market conditions, the trend in contract activity implies we are on track for a more meaningful sales gain this year," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who added this would bring about a broad price stabilization or even modest national price growth.