The number of contracts to buy previously owned homes increased more than forecast in August, reinforcing signs of a rebound in housing, industry figures showed.

The index of signed purchase agreements, or pending home sales, rose 6.4% after a 3.2% gain in July, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. The gain was the seventh in a row. Compared with a year earlier, pending sales rose 12.4%.

"We are in a recovery," said Gary Thayer, a macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors LLC in St. Louis, before the report. "There were a lot of people who were on the fence. Prices are firming up and people are getting back into the market."

Pending home sales were projected to increase 1% in August, according to the median forecast of 36 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

Pending home sales are considered a leading indicator because they track contract signings. The Realtors' existing-home sales report tallies closings, which typically occur a month or two later.

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