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Pending home sales give hopeful sign for U.S. housing market

A home for sale sign hangs in front of a house in Oakton, on the day the National Association of Realtors issues its Pending Home Sales for February report, in Virginia March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Contracts to purchase previously owned U.S. homes rose to their highest level in 1-1/2 years in February, a sign the lackluster recovery in the U.S. housing market could be accelerating.

The National Association of Realtors on Monday said its pending home sales index rose 3.1 percent last month.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.4 percent gain, although the association also revised previous readings to show a smaller gain in January than initially estimated.

The increase last month took contract signings, which usually turn into sales after a month or two, to their highest level since June 2013.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)