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Home sales up nationally

The National Association of Realtors said on Thursday existing home sales increased 0.8 percent to an annual rate of 4.98 million units last month, the highest level since November 2009. The January sales pace was revised up a 4.94 million units from the previously reported 4.92 million units.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected home resales to rise to a 5 million-unit rate. Homes took about 74 days to sell in February, according to the median estimate, down from 97 days from a year ago.

The rise in sales last month was the latest indication that the housing market was gaining more ground. Data this week showed builders broke ground on more houses in February and permits for future construction approached a five-year high.