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Mortgage Rates Slip, Home Sales Jump

The Exchange

Have we hit a housing bottom or not? Some economists say yes, and some data are pointing to improvement, but others ... not so much.

Thursday's data show some promise for the bulls with pending home sales, an indicator based on contract signings, showing a 4.1% uptick in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. The index is now at the highest level since April 2010.

"The housing market has clearly turned the corner," says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Rising sales are bringing down inventory and creating much more balanced conditions around the county, which means home prices will be rising in more areas as the year progresses."

But mortgage rates aren't showing signs of budging: The average 30-year mortgage rate edged back down to 3.88% last week, according to Freddie Mac. The rate hit a recent high of 4.08% in March but has been unable to top 4% since.

[Click here to find mortgage rates in your area.]

Earlier this week, the Case Shiller Home Price index showed a 3.5% decline for February, the most recent month for which the data are available. And the MBA Mortgage index, an indication of mortgage application volume, fell 3.8% last week.

Still, Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, says the bottom is in. "The crash is over," Zandi said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. "Home sales -- both new and existing -- and housing starts are now off the bottom."

What do you think? Is housing improving in your area? Have we seen a bottom, or is there further to fall?