Pending home sales surge in February
* Sales surged 8.2% between January and February. That was much better than the unchanged reading that economists were expecting and the single-biggest monthly rise since October 2001.
* At 97.6, the pending sales index was up 17.3% from the year-ago level of 83.2.
* By region, pendings rose across most of the country. They climbed 9% in the Northeast, 9.2% in the South and a hefty 21.8% in the Midwest. Sales slumped 4.8% in the West.
Worries about the housing market are quickly fading in the wake of the latest pending home sales data. Sales jumped by the largest margin in more than eight years, with broad-based regional strength.
Some of the big rise this month -- and the big decline a month earlier -- may be weather-related noise. But the underlying trend is clear: Cheap homes and cheap financing are gradually bringing out buyers. The slow but steady improvement in the economy -- especially the labor market -- is another supportive factor.
I don't expect a vigorous market resurgence or a sharp, new rise in home prices. Foreclosure inventory will continue to be doled out into the market over the next year or two, taking some vigor out of this recovery. But it will be a recovery nonetheless, one warmly welcomed by battered home sellers, banks, and home builders.