WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of existing U.S. homes rose for the fourth straight month in July to their highest level in nearly a year, the latest sign that the housing recovery is picking up after stumbling at the start of the year.<br />
The National Association of Realtors says home sales rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million, the highest since last September.<br />
More homeowners are selling their homes, mortgage rates remain low and home price gains have slowed this year. That's made home purchases more affordable.<br />
Sales peaked in July 2013 and then fell as interest rates rose from low levels. Harsh winter weather also slowed sales earlier this year. As a result, July's sales are still 4.3 percent lower than a year ago. They also remain below the 5.5 million considered consistent with a healthy housing market.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
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