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>Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes plunge

>Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) — Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes plunged more than anticipated in November…

The index of signed purchase agreements, or pending home sales, dropped 16 percent as Americans waited for a first-time buyer tax credit to be extended, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington.

Compared with November 2008, pending sales were up 19.3 percent, the real estate group said.

All four U.S. regions registered decreases in November, led by 26 percent slumps in the Northeast and Midwest. Contract signings dropped 15 percent in the South and 2.7 percent in the West.

Pending home sales are considered a leading indicator because they track contract signings. The Realtors’ existing- home sales report tallies closings, which typically occur a month or two later.

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