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US Home Sales, Prices Rise

FILE - A real estate sign advertising a home "Under Contract" is pictured in Vienna, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C.

The number of existing homes sold in the United States rose 1.2 percent in February, a modest increase over the previous month.

Monday's report from the National Association of Realtors also said home prices climbed 4.7 percent from the same period a year ago.

If homes continued selling at this pace for a full year, 4.88 million houses would change hands. Economists watch home sales closely because severe problems in the housing sector played a key role in the financial crisis.

Monday's report gives information about sales of "existing" homes, which make up the majority of the market. On Tuesday, experts will publish data on new home sales, which make up about 15 percent of transactions.

Also on Tuesday, government experts will report on the U.S. inflation rate for February. Economists surveyed by the Bloomberg financial news service predict that prices will be two-tenths of a percent higher than the prior month.

U.S. central bank chair Janet Yellen recently told journalists that inflation will probably stay below a one percent annual rate this year. That worries Federal Reserve officials who have been trying to boost inflation to the 2 percent annual rate they think is healthy for the economy.

On Friday, a separate report is expected to show that the U.S. economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate in the last few months of 2014. If that prediction by economists turns out to be correct, it would mean U.S. growth was a little faster than first estimated.