Analysts at PMI Mortgage Insurance Co. think sales of existing homes hit probably hit bottom in the first three months of the year, and are projecting they will rise each quarter for the remainder of the year.

Increased sales of foreclosed and distressed properties will push sales of existing homes from an annual rate of 4.6 million homes during the first quarter — the worst quarter so far in the current downturn — to an annual pace of 5.2 million during the last three months of the year, PMI projects.

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