WASHINGTON - Contracts to buy U.S. previously owned homes rose by the most in more than 2-1/2 years in January, but a resurgence in mortgage rates could delay a much-awaited housing market turnaround.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Monday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on signed contracts, jumped 8.1% last month, the biggest increase since June 2020. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast contracts, which become sales after a month or two, rising 1.0%.