The National Association of Realtors will begin publishing a new index in March that promises to provide a better handle on the market for existing homes.The Pending Home Sales Index will be based on signed rather than closed contracts, thereby delivering "a more current read ... than any other indicator currently available," NAR chief economist David Lereah said at the group's annual convention in Orlando, Fla. According to Mr. Lereah, the vast majority of pending sales translate into closed deals, typically within four to eight weeks. The NAR's existing-home sales series, which focuses on seasonally adjusted sales, median prices, and inventory levels, account for some 85% of all residential sales activity. But it is a lagging indicator because it covers transactions closed the previous month. As a leading indicator, the new PHSI will project national sales that will settle in the next month or two. The idea for creating the index was hatched more than two years ago in a meeting with the Federal Reserve Board, Mr. Lereah said. The NAR can be found on the Internet at http://realtor.org.

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