This morning the National Association of Realtors released the December data for their Pending Home Sales Index. Here is an excerpt from the latest press release:

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says pending sales edged up in December and reached their highest level since last March (111.3). "Another month of modest increases in contract activity is evidence that the housing market has a small trace of momentum at the start of 2018," he said. "Jobs are plentiful, wages are finally climbing and the prospect of higher mortgage rates are perhaps encouraging more aspiring buyers to begin their search now."

Added Yun, "Sadly, these positive indicators may not lead to a stronger sales pace. Buyers throughout the country continue to be hamstrung by record low supply levels that are pushing up prices — especially at the lower end of the market." (more here).

The chart below gives us a snapshot of the index since 2001. The MoM came in at 0.5%, up from the 0.3% increase last month. Investing.com had a forecast of 0.5%.

Pending Home Sales

Over this time frame, the US population has grown by 15.2%. For a better look at the underlying trend, here is an overlay with the nominal index and the population-adjusted variant. The focus is pending home sales growth since 2001.

Pending Home Sales Growth

The index for the most recent month is 13% below its all-time high in 2005. The population-adjusted index is 22% off its 2005 high.

Pending versus Existing Home Sales

The NAR explains that "because a home goes under contract a month or two before it is sold, the Pending Home Sales Index generally leads Existing Home Sales by a month or two." Here is a growth overlay of the two series. The general correlation, as expected, is close. And a close look at the numbers supports the NAR's assessment that their pending sales series is a leading index.