Signed contracts for existing-home purchases were down in February, dropping 0.5% on a monthly basis, although still up 9.2% year-over-year, according to data released today by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The dip brought NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) to a reading of 96.5 for the month

However, "the index is not always reliable, especially when cancellations or sales to investors are running high, as they are today," says Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. Sales to investors made up 23% of existing-home sales last month, compared to 19% the year before. Cancellations were at a rate of 31% in February, up from 9% the year before. Overall, Newport says, the "PHSI is up 11% since September, but has moved little in the three months ending in February, pointing to flat sales up ahead."

Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.

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