Pending sales of existing homes in U.S. rebounded in July

Americans signed more contracts to purchase previously owned homes in July, a sign housing will keep strengthening in the second half.

The index of pending home resales climbed 2.4 percent, exceeding the 1 percent gain median forecast of 39 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. The gauge rose to 101.7, the highest since April 2010.

Home buying is coming within reach for more Americans as less expensive properties and record-low borrowing costs combine to stabilize the industry that helped trigger the recession. Faster hiring and easier access to credit are needed to reduce foreclosures, a hurdle to a more sustained recovery.

“All the elements are in place for continued growth in the housing industry,” said Omair Sharif, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. “Housing is one of the bright spots in the economy.”

Stocks were little changed after the report as investors awaited comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke in two days on the state of the economy. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.1 percent to 1,411 at 10:18 a.m. in New York.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a drop of 1.5 percent to a rise of 6.6 percent. Signings rebounded from a 1.4 percent fall in June that was the same as previously estimated.

Economy Cools

The world’s largest economy cooled less than previously estimated in the second quarter, another report today showed. Gross domestic product climbed at a 1.7 percent annual rate from April through June, up from an initial estimate of 1.5 percent, revised Commerce Department figures showed. That followed a 2 percent first-quarter gain.

Three of four regions showed an increase in pending sales, according to today’s report from the real-estate agents’ group. That included a 5.2 percent gain in the South, and a 3.4 percent advance in the Midwest. The number of contracts in the West dropped 1.7 percent.

Compared with a year earlier, the index increased 15 percent after an 8.4 percent gain in the prior 12-month period.

Pending home sales are considered a leading indicator because they track contract signings. Purchases of existing homes are tabulated when a contract closes, typically a month or two later, and made up more than 90 percent of the housing market last year.

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