still no evidence of a significant rebound in home sales

The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday its Pending Home Sales index, based on contracts signed in December, rose 1.0 percent to 96.6 after a steep drop in November when a boost from an initial tax credit for first-time buyers ebbed.

The gain in the index, which leads sales of previously owned homes by one to two months, was in line with market forecasts. Compared to December 2008, it was up 10.9 percent.

“There is still no evidence of a significant rebound in home sales. The pending home sales index implies existing home sales will be little changed between December and January,” said Abiel Reinhart, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

Separately, the percentage of homes standing empty rose to 2.7 percent in the final three months of 2009 from 2.6 percent in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said. The rate has risen for the last two quarters.

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