width=317Contracts for pending sales of previously owned homes unexpectedly rose in February, a survey from the National Association of Realtors showed, a rise the group said may be attributed to home buyers taking advantage of a soon-to-expire tax credit.

The Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in February, rose 8.2 percent to 97.6 from a downwardly revised 90.2 in January.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast pending home sales, which lead existing home sales by one to two months, would remain essentially unchanged in February.

(Reporting by Corbett B. Daly; Editing by James Dalgleish )