The National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index is a measure of the number of contracts signed to buy homes during the month. In December, the index experienced a 3.7 percent drop from the month before but was still 6.1 percent above year-before levels. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said fewer homes available for sale likely led to the decline. “Total inventory fell in December for the first time in 16 months, resulting in fewer choices for buyers and a modest uptick in price growth in markets throughout the country,” Yun said. Still, It was the fourth month contract signings were up year-over-year and the largest annual gain since June 2013. And, according to Yun, increasing financial confidence, more jobs, cheaper mortgage insurance, and new low down payment programs will likely lead to a boost in first-time buyers this year. The National Association of Realtors expect that total sales of previously owned homes will be around 5.26 million this year, a 6.6 percent increase over 2014. Also in the report, pending home sales were down across every region, with the Northeast and Midwest experiencing the largest declines. More here.