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Contracts to buy US homes rose slightly in April

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More Americans signed contracts to purchase homes in April than the prior month. But the pace of buying is still weaker than last year, as higher prices and relatively tight supplies have limited sales.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 0.4 percent to 97.8 last month. The index remains 9.2 percent below its level a year ago.

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

The gain in signed contracts partly reflects the slight decline in mortgage rates and the economic rebound from the brutal winter. The number of signed contracts increased in the Northeast and Midwest month-to-month, more than offsetting declines in the West and South.

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