Sales of existing homes edged up slightly in September in a sign the housing market continues to recover slowly.

The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index increased 0.3%, to 99.5, in September from 99.2 in August, the trade group said Thursday.

"This means only minor movement is likely in near-term existing-home sales, but with positive underlying market fundamentals they should continue on an uptrend in 2013," Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist, said in a news release. "Home contract activity remains at an elevated level in contrast with recent years, but currently appears to be bouncing around in a narrow range."

September marked the 17th month consecutive month that sales of existing homes have increased. Sales for the month were up 14.5% compared with September 2011.

Sales of existing homes in September rose 1.4% in the Northeast, 1% in the South and 4.3% in the West while falling 5.8% in the Midwest, according to the group.

The data comes amid a string of signs the housing sector is strengthening. In August, sales of previously owned homes hit a two-year high. A decision in September by the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low at least through mid-2015 has spurred a wave of residential mortgage activity.

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