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US pending home sales slide in December

[WASHINGTON] US pending home sales fell in December after a surge in the previous six months, with tighter inventory and higher prices possibly partly to blame, an industry group said on Thursday.

The National Association of Realtors's index for pending home sales - an indicator of the possible trend for final sales - declined to 100.7 in December from 104.6 the previous month.

The index had held above 102.5 since May.

"Total inventory fell in December for the first time in 16 months, resulting in fewer choices for buyers and a modest uptick in price growth in markets throughout the country," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

The NAR index was up 6.1 per cent from a year ago, suggesting the market has broadly stabilized after the rebound from the 2006-2007 crash.

Mr Yun forecast that the market would remain strong this year and even pick up, based on the sharp fall in mortgage interest rates and the acceleration last year in job creation, strengthening household incomes.

"More jobs, increasing consumer confidence, less expensive mortgage insurance and new, low down-payment programs coming into the marketplace will likely lead to more demand from first-time buyers."