Sales of previously owned homes in the United States rose at a slower-than-expected pace in May, an industry survey showed on Tuesday, pointing to a sluggish recovery from the severe economic recession.

The National Association of Realtors said sales rose 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 4.77 million units from a downwardly revised 4.66 million pace in April. The May reading was below market forecasts for a 4.81 million-unit pace. However, sales increased for a second straight month.

The inventory of existing homes for sale fell 3.5 percent to 3.8 million. The median national home price fell 16.8 percent, the third largest drop on record, from the same period a year-ago to $173,000.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by James Dalgleish)