The Pending Home Sales Index fell slightly in February but an economist said the U.S. spring home-buying picture looks good. The index slipped from January\'s 97 down to 96.5 but remained 9.2 percent above February 2011 when it stood at 88.4, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. The index is termed a \"leading\" or \"forward-looking\" economic indicator because it predicts future home sales. \"The spring home-buying season looks bright because of an elevated level of contract offers so far this year,\" said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. \"If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years. Based on all of the factors in the current market, that\'s what we\'re expecting with sales rising 7 to 10 percent in 2012,\" he said. NAR said the pending home sales index fell 0.6 percent in the Northeast and jumped 6.5 percent in the Midwest. In the South, the index fell 3 percent. In the West, it fell 2.6 percent.