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Sales of existing homes rose slightly in December, as record low mortgage interest rates and pent-up demand helped push total sales last year to their highest in seven years.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Thursday that sales of previously owned homes rose 1 percent last month, to an annual rate of 4.87 million units. Total sales for 2013 were the strongest in seven years.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected home resales to rise to a 4.94 million-unit pace in December.
Home resales have been hurt by a sharp rise in mortgage interest rates since the spring and price increases that have shut some home buyers out of the market.
But other recent indications of the sector's health have brightened as a steady rise in household formation from multi-decade lows props up demand and encourages builders to undertake new development projects.