Sales of existing single-family homes jumped 5.7% in March as low mortgage rates fueled a strong start for the spring homebuying season.The National Association of Realtors reported that resales rose from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.13 million rate in February to a 6.48 million rate in March -- the highest sales pace since September 2003. NAR chief economist David Lereah told reporters that he expects the relatively low rates to fuel strong sales in April and May. "There appears to be some fence jumping," he said. "It happens every time rates begin to go up." He said he expects sales to slow as mortgage rates gradually climb to 6.5% by the end of the year. But he also noted that homebuyers are turning to adjustable-rate mortgages to deal with rising rates on fixed-rate mortgages. The NAR's forecast calls for 5.9 million in sales in 2004, slightly below last year's record. "If we continue to get to big numbers like this, we will have to revise it upward," Mr. Lereah said. The NAR can be found on the Internet at http://realtor.org.

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