Pending home sales rose in December, achieving the fifth increase in the past six months, according to data released today by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The numbers climbed 2.0% above November to a reading of 93.7, but remained 4.2% below the same month the year before.

The South saw the largest gains, moving up 11.0% from November and rose 1.7% year-over-year. In contrast to new-home sales numbers released earlier this week, the West fared the worst, dropping 13.2% from November and down 10.7% from December 2009.

The Northeast and Midwest both saw gains from the previous month, at 1.8% and 8.0% respectively, while remaining below the previous year, a drop of 5.3% in the Northeast and 5.1% in the Midwest.

The previous year’s numbers were buoyed by the federal home-buying tax credit, which had originally been due to expire in November 2009, but was then extended into April 2010. Some industry watchers cautioned that the December 2010 numbers were pushed up by sales from the glut of foreclosures that are hitting markets across the county. Even so, builders will be happy to see absorption levels rising at the end of a year short on good news.

Claire Easley is senior editor, online,at Builder.