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Nationwide pending sales of existing homes jumped up from September to October, but remained far below last year’s levels, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

Pending sales, in which a deal is reached but hasn’t closed, can be the best indicator of the most-recent activity.

Such deals increased a seasonally adjusted 10.4 percent in October from September but were down 20.5 percent from October 2009, when a homebuyer tax credit boosted activity.

In King County, pending sales were up 0.3 percent (not seasonally adjusted) from September but down 26 percent from October 2009, according to the most-recent report from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

“It is welcoming to see a solid double-digit percentage gain, but activity needs to improve further to reach healthy, sustainable levels,” Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a news release. “The housing market clearly is in a recovery phase and will be uneven at times, but the improving job market and consequential boost to household formation will help the recovery process going into 2011.”

Yun predicted sales would continue to increase from a seasonally adjusted low over the summer. But he said tight lending standards and talk of eliminating or limiting the mortgage-interest tax deduction could hold back the market.

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