Pending home sales improved slightly in April and continue to be well above a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Gains in the Northeast and Midwest were offset largely by declines in the West and South. The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 0.3 percent to 106.0 in April from 105.7 in March, and is 10.3 percent above April 2012 when it was 96.1; the data reflect contracts but not closings. Home contract activity is at the highest level since the index hit 110.9 in April 2010, immediately before the deadline for the home buyer tax credit. Pending sales have been above year-ago levels for the past 24 months. Total existing-home sales are expected to rise just over seven percent to about five million this year. "The housing market continues to squeak out gains from already very positive conditions. Pending contracts so far this year easily correspond to higher closed home sales in 2013,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Because of inventory shortages, higher home sales will push up home values to the highest level in five years." The national median existing-home price should increase close to 8 percent and exceed $190,000 in 2013. The PHSI in the Northeast jumped 11.5 percent to 92.3 in April and is 17.7 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index rose 3.2 percent to 107.1 in April and is 15.1 percent higher than April 2012. Pending home sales in the South slipped 1.1 percent to an index of 119.2 in April but are 12.3 percent above a year ago. With pronounced inventory constraints, the index in the West fell 7.6 percent in April to 94.6 and is 2.6 percent below April 2012.