A measure of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell last month after reaching a 2 ½-year high in November. Sales were held back by a limited supply of available homes.
The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales dropped 4.3 percent to 101.7 in December. That's still 6.9 percent higher than it was a year ago.
The decline signals that sales of previously occupied homes may drop in the coming months. There's generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale.
Still, sales of previously occupied homes rose last year to their highest level in five years. And the Realtors' group forecasts that sales will rise 9 percent this year as the housing market steadily recovers.