Number of contracts to buy homes at highest level since May

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in April as the spring home buying season begins.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.4 percent to 110.5, the highest level since May 2015. The Northeast and the South posted the biggest regional gains. Western states registered a 1.8 percent drop in pending home sales.

Pending sales contracts are a barometer of future purchases. A sale is typically completed a month or two after a contract is signed.

The housing market has been helped by low mortgage rates. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage last week stood at 3.59 percent, near its low for the year. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage last week slipped to 2.85 percent, lowest since May 2013.