Existing-home sales rose 1% in March to 6.89 million units on an annualized basis, matching the third-highest reading on record, according to figures compiled by the National Association of Realtors.The trade group said overall "economic improvements" are aiding the housing market. The NAR credited historically low mortgage rates and gains in employment for the strong performance. "There's no question there is a strong demand for housing from a growing population," said NAR chief economist David Lereah. Greenwich Capital analyst Steve Stanley noted that demand for homes "remains torrid." Greenwich said it believes Tuesday's new-home sales report for March may post a sharp decline, but only because poor weather conditions may have affected building. In March 2004 resales totaled 6.57 million units on an annualized basis. The NAR can be found online at http://www.realtor.org.

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