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A forward-looking US housing gauge climbed more than expected last month, hitting its highest level since last April as strength in equities and labour markets boosted home buyers’ confidence.

Signed contracts to buy previously owned homes advanced 5.5 per cent in February from January, according to the National Association of Realtors. The reading was the second-highest since 2006 and topped Wall Street estimates for a rise of 2.5 per cent. It also marks a rebound from the 2.8 per cent dip in the previous month.

“Buyers came back in force last month as a modest, seasonal uptick in listings were enough to fuel an increase in contract signings throughout the country,” said Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist.

He added: “The stock market’s continued rise and steady hiring in most markets is spurring significant interest in buying, as well as the expectation from some households that delaying their home search may mean paying higher interest rates later this year.”

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