In the latest sign of a bottoming real estate market, the National Association of Realtors said June 2 that its seasonally-adjusted index of sales contracts signed jumped for the third straight month, surging 6.7% in April compared to March and 3.2% compared to April 2008. It was the biggest monthly gain since October 2001 and the first year-over-year gain since August.

Pending home sales are considered a leading indicator because sales are typically finalized a month or two after contracts are signed.

Interestingly, the Northeast appears to be heading for a big bounce in home sales. The Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast (made up of New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) rose 32.6% from March and 0.8% from April 2008. Of course, not all of those contracts will lead to sales because mortgages can fall through and some contracts are contingent on a buyer selling a home elsewhere.

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