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U.S. pending home sales rise to a 10-month high

Homes are seen for sale in the southwest area of Portland, Oregon March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes increased more than expected in March to reach their highest level in nearly a year, suggesting sustained momentum in the housing market.


The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday its pending home sales index, based on contracts signed last month, rose 1.4 percent to 110.5, the highest level since May.


These contracts become sales after a month or two, and last month's increase pointed to a further pick-up in home resales in April. Economists had forecast pending home sales rising 0.5 percent last month.


Pending home sales were up 1.4 percent from a year ago.

Contracts increased 3.2 percent in the Northeast from the prior month and were up 3.0 percent in the South. They rose 0.2 percent in the Midwest, but fell 1.8 percent in the West.


(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)