Pending sales of U.S. existing homes in March posted their first back-to-back gain in almost a year.

The number of Americans signing contracts to buy previously owned homes jumped 3.2% after a 2% gain in February, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. Economists forecast the pending-sales index would be unchanged, according to the median of 32 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from a 2.3% drop to an increase of 3.5%.

Pending resales 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. The trade group, whose pending-sales data goes back to January 2001, started publishing the index in March 2005.

There were increases in two of four regions, Monday's report showed. Purchases rose 8.5% in the South and 3.9% in the West, and fell 5.7% in the Northeast and 1% in the Midwest.

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