Fewer Americans signed contracts to purchase previously owned homes in February, indicating a pause in momentum for an industry that is helping power the economy.
The index of pending home sales fell 0.4% to 104.8, the second-highest level since April 2010, after a revised 3.8% increase the prior month, the National Association of Realtors reported.
In Europe, the Institute of International Finance said overnight that banks in Portugal, Spain and Italy may come under funding pressure after a deal earlier this week in Cyprus rescued the island’s financial system at the expense of bank creditors.
Gold futures rose for the first time in four sessions on speculation that the Federal Reserve will maintain monetary stimulus amid signs of a limited recovery in the U.S. housing market. On the Comex in New York, gold futures for June delivery gained 0.6 percent to settle at $1,607.20 an ounce.
Crude oil rose to a five-week high after a government report showed that U.S. refineries boosted operating rates, bolstering oil demand. Crude oil for May delivery rose 24 cents to $96.58 a barrel on the NYMEX, the highest settlement since 19 February.
The euro fell to less than $1.28 for the first time in more than four months as a bailout for Cyprus and a political deadlock in Italy undermined demand for the region’s assets.
Today’s session will see the release of the Melbourne Institute inflation gauge, at 10:30am, AEST, and private sector credit, at 11:30am, AEST.