The pace of sales of existing homes in the United States fell 2.0 percent in April, roughly in line with expectations, as higher mortgage interest rates ate into buyers' ability to purchase homes, a trade group said on Thursday.

Sales of existing U.S. homes fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.76 million units in April from a downwardly revised level of 6.90 million in March. April's rate was 5.7 percent below the 7.17 million unit pace a year earlier.

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Analysts had expected home resales to slow to a 6.75 million unit rate from March's originally reported 6.92 million pace.

The Realtors' chief economist David Lereah said higher mortgage rates were affecting buyers' ability to afford homes.

"Right now, the numbers we are seeing are soft-landing numbers," Lereah said. However, he said the housing industry was closely watching the growing inventory of homes for sale.

There were a record 3.38 million homes for sale in April, representing a six-month supply, the highest since a 6.4 months' supply in January 1998. The inventory in March stood at an upwardly revised 5.6 months' worth, the trade group said.

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