U.S. pending home sales beat expectations in June

WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) - Contracts to buy U.S. previously owned homes increased more than expected in June, the latest indication that the housing market was weathering the COVID-19 pandemic far better than the broader economy.

The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, rose 16.6% to 116.1 last month. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast pending home contracts, which become sales after a month or two, increasing 15% in June.

Pending home sales advanced 6.3% from a year ago.

The report followed on the heels of news on Tuesday that the homeownership rate raced to its highest level in nearly 12 years in the second quarter.

Reports this month showed a surge in homebuilder confidence in July, and an acceleration in home construction and sales of both new and previously owned homes in June. The housing market is being boosted by historically low mortgage rates, offsetting record unemployment triggered by the coronavirus crisis.

In June, pending home sales increased 11.9% in the populous South. They soared 11.7% in the West and surged 54.4% in the Northeast. Contracts rose 12.2% in the Midwest. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)