The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in November, fell 4.0% to 82.3 from a downwardly revised reading of 85.7 in October, 5.3% below November 2007 and the lowest since the series began in 2001.

The PHSI in the Northeast dropped 7.2% to 63.2 in November, 14.6% below a year ago. In the Midwest, the index fell 6.7% to 74.2, 10.1% below November 2007. The South declined 2.2% to 85.3 in November, 12.7% below a year ago.In the West, the index was down 2.4% to 101.2 but remains 19.3% higher than November 2007.

"Mounting job losses and very weak consumer confidence deterred home buyers from signing contracts in November," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "December's housing market activity could be comparably lower due to ongoing problems in the economy, so a real estate-focused stimulus plan is urgently needed."

Yun estimated that a "proper real-estate focused stimulus measure" could increase home sales by more than 10% and begin to stabilize the market in many parts of the country.

The NAR forecast that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage should remain "fairly steady" through the first half of the year and rise slightly in the second half. Its housing affordability index, which tracks the relationship among home prices, mortgage interest rates and family income, is on track to match a record high set in 1972.

"The unique housing affordability conditions in today¹s market underscore the opportunity in giving consumers the necessary incentives to stimulate our economy through a housing recovery," Yun said.