The numbers: The number of home buyers who signed a contract to purchase a home in August jumped, far exceeding economists’ expectations.

Pending home sales rose 8.1% in August compared with July, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had projected a 0.4% increase for pending home sales in August.

Still, compared with a year ago, pending sales were down 8.3%, reflecting how much home-buying activity has fallen from the boom last summer and fall.

The pending home sales index measures real-estate transactions where a contract was signed for a previously-owned home, but the sale had yet to close, and it is benchmarked to contract-signing activity in 2001. The index provides insight as to the direction existing-home sales figures will take in the months to come, which is based on closed transactions.

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