Fewer people signed contracts to buy US homes in March

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Fewer consumers signed contracts to buy U.S. homes last month as the spring buying season revs up with stiff competition for affordable homes amid lagging inventory.

The National Association of Realtors says that its pending home sales index slipped 0.8 percent to 111.4 in March, from 112.3 in February.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors, says that even with the dearth of inventory, activity was still strong enough to be the third best in the past year. He says the low supply of homes could mean higher prices in the months ahead.

"Sellers are in the driver's seat this spring as the intense competition for the few homes for sale is forcing many buyers to be aggressive in their offers," Yun says.

Pending sales contracts are a barometer of future purchases.