Contracts to buy U.S. homes fell in February

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell for the eighth straight month in February, a sign of slow real estate sales over the next few months.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dropped 0.8 percent to 93.9. The index has fallen 10.5 percent over the past 12 months.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale.

Higher mortgage rates, rising prices and a limited supply of homes have slowed sales since the index peaked in June. Snowstorms appear to have crimped purchases in the Northeast.

The Realtors, a trade group, predict sales will slip to 5 million this year from 5.1 million in 2013.

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