WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Pending home sales rose 2% in December, according to a National Association of Realtors report released Thursday morning. An index that measures the number of contracts to buy previously owned homes in the U.S. rose 2% in December month-over-month, but the figure remained 4.2% below year-earlier levels.
Economists had expected the figure to rise 1% after pending home sales rebounded 3.5% in November , following a 10.4% jump in October. November's pending home sales remained 20.5% lower than in the year-earlier month. Pending home sales are viewed as an indicator of future home sales since they reflect contracts -- not closings -- and generally occur with a lag time of one to two months. The NAR report followed word from the group last week showing that existing-home sales rose 12.3% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million units , topping Wall Street's expectations. While the rate improved, it remained 2.9% below the 5.44 million units recorded in December 2009. "December was a good finish to 2010, when sales fluctuate more than normal," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The December pace is near the volume we're expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level."