WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. home resales rose slightly in December, a hopeful sign as the housing market recovery looks to pick up pace in 2015.
The National Association of Realtors said on Friday existing home sales increased 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.04 million units last month.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales rising to a 5.06-million-unit pace.
For all of 2014, existing home sales fell 3.1 percent to 4.93 million. That was the first annual drop since 2010.
The housing market has struggled to maintain momentum since stagnating in the second half of 2013 following a run-up in mortgage rates.
However, a decline in mortgage rates, an easing of lending standards and the resurgent health of the U.S. economy over the last few months has spurred optimism that sales could strengthen this year, particularly among first-time homebuyers.
(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Paul Simao)