The number of U.S. homebuyers who agreed to purchase a previously occupied home in April posted the largest monthly jump in nearly eight years, a sign that sales are finally coming to life after a long and painful slump.
The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday its seasonally adjusted index of sales contracts signed in April surged 6.7 percent to 90.3, far exceeding analysts' forecasts. It was the biggest monthly jump since October 2001, when pending sales rose 9.2 percent.
"This is yet another positive indication that the bottoming process is forming," Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients. "Now if only prices would stabilize."
Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected the index would edge up to 85 from a reading of 84.6 in March.
Typically there is a one- to two-month lag between a contract and a done deal, so the index is a barometer for future existing home sales.
"The pronounced increase in April does indicate that actual existing home sales are poised to rise in the coming month or two," wrote Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist with MFR.