Enticed by tumbling housing prices, more Americans signed contracts to buy homes in December despite widespread concerns about the economy, The National Association of Realtors reported.

The National Association of Realtors said that pending home sales rose 6.3 percent in December from a month earlier, with strong gains in the South and Midwest. The number of pending home sales — those in which a buyer has signed a contract hasn’t closed — were up 2.1 percent from December 2007.

“We’ve got some up-turns that are encouraging to us,” said Jed Smith, director for quantitative research of the Realtors’ group. “It’s the direction we like to see.”

But economists cautioned that December could prove to be nothing more than a bump in real-estate’s long slide.

“They rebounded from an all-time low, so the level is still low,” said Patrick Newport, United States economist at IHS Global Insight. “Sales are going to continue sliding because the recession is intensifying. Banks have tightened credit since last year, and they’re not easing up.”

The number of pending sales for 2008 was down 9.5 percent from 2007 — a sign of the toll that the tight credit markets had inflicted on the flagging housing market. The Commerce Department reported that new-home sales in December fell to an annual rate of 331,000, their lowest point on record.

So do you think that The National Association of Realtors are correct with their assumptions?

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