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US pending home sales climbed 5.2% in January

This Feb. 18, 2020, photo shows a sale pending real estate sign in front of homes in San Francisco. On Thursday, Feb. 27, the National Association of Realtors releases its January report on pending home sales, which are seen as a barometer of future purchases. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
This Feb. 18, 2020, photo shows a sale pending real estate sign in front of homes in San Francisco. On Thursday, Feb. 27, the National Association of Realtors releases its January report on pending home sales, which are seen as a barometer of future purchases. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – There was a 5.2% jump in Americans signing contracts to buy homes in January from the previous month as lower mortgage rates and a solid economy are pushing up demand for housing.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its index of pending sales climbed to 108.8 last month. These contract signings — a barometer of finalized purchases over the next two months — have risen 5.7% over the past year.

Homebuyers have benefited from a steady drop over the past year in the average interest charged on a 30-year mortgage. This has improved affordability for buyers with sufficient savings. But sales growth might also be restricted by a historically low inventory of homes for sales and prices that climbing faster than wages.