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Sales contracts for US homes rose in March to highest level in almost 2 years.

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy U.S. homes rose in March, the latest sign the battered housing market is slowly improving.

The National Association of Realtors says its index of sales agreements increased 4.1 per cent last month to a reading of 101.4, the highest since April 2010, when buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit. A reading of 100 is considered healthy.

Contract signings typically indicate where the housing market is headed. There’s a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed deal.

More signings are among recent signs of a slight pickup in the housing market. New home sales fell in March but have risen over the past year. Builders are also more confident.