NEW YORK - Pending home sales slipped 0.5% to an index reading of 96.5 in February after an unrevised 2.0% increase to 97.0 in January, according to a report released Monday by the National Association of Realtors.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted a 1.0% increase for the index.

Year-over-year the pending homes sales index is up 9.2% from last February, when the index was 88.4.

Regionally, pending sales were mostly lower. The Northeast saw a 0.6% decrease to 77.7, while sales fell 3.0% to 105.8 in the South, and sales dropped 2.6% to 99.3 in the West. In the Midwest sales rose 6.5% to 93.8.

“The spring home buying season looks bright because of an elevated level of contract offers so far this year,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years.  Based on all of the factors in the current market, that’s what we’re expecting with sales rising 7 to 10 percent in 2012.”

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