US economic data sparks optimism

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), home sales had gained 0.8 percent since January to reach an annual pace of 4.98 million units, with the rise all coming from sales of apartments and condominiums.

NAR economist Lawrence Yun said low interest rates, improvement in employment and pent-up demand still underpinned the market's continuing expansion. "Job growth in the improving economy and pent-up demand are causing both home sales and rental leasing to rise.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board index of economic indicators rose 0.5%, with the Federal Reserve commenting that the felt that the economy had improved "moderately”. The Conference Board, a research association, said that eight of the ten components on the index increased in February, compared with five in January and six in December.

The components include average weekly hours working, manufacturers' new orders, and new building permits issued.

Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board, said: "The US economy is growing slowly now, and this reading increases hope that it may pick up some momentum in the second half of the year."