A National Association of Realtors index that gauges pending home sales was 10.2 percent lower in April than in the same month last year, based on contracts signed. The index also fell 3.2 percent in April compared to the previous month.

The index is considered a leading indicator for the housing market because signed contracts typically lead to finalized sales within one or two months, and the index is based on a national sample that typically represents about 20 percent of existing-home sales.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.

The index was 101.4 in April compared with 104.8 in March and 109.7 in February. The April index rating is the lowest since the index fell to 99.3 in February 2003. The index was 112.9 in April 2006 and hit a 12-month high of 113.3 in December 2006.

The April index dropped 4.4 percent in the Midwest, 10.4 percent in the South, 11.7 percent in the West, and 15.4 percent in the Northeast compared to April 2006, the Realtor group reported.

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