US pending home sales trended higher before virus outbreak

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Americans signed more contracts in February to buy homes, but the gains are likely relics of a moment before the coronavirus outbreak sent the U.S. economy spiraling into a likely recession.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its pending home sales index, which measures the numbers of purchase contracts signed, rose 2.4% in February from the prior month to 111.5. Lower mortgage rates were enticing more people to buy homes, such that pending sales had climbed 9.4% over the past 12 months.

But the outlook has deteriorated rapidly over the past month, as millions of Americans are losing their jobs and monthly rental and mortgage payments are becoming difficult to manage.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said that applications last week for home purchase loans had fallen 11% from a year ago.

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