U.S. pending home sales continued to rise in April, fresh evidence of the recovering housing market, a leading U.S. industry group reported on Thursday. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said its index of pending home sales, which measures the number of contracts that have been signed but not yet closed for purchasing previously owned homes, gained 0.3 percent to 106.0 in April. The estimate last month was 10.3 percent higher than the level in April 2012. \"The housing market continues to squeak out gains from already very positive conditions. Pending contracts so far this year easily correspond to higher closed home sales in 2013,\" said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. Total existing-home sales are expected to rise more than 7 percent to about 5 million units this year, Yun predicted. The NAR index is a forward-looking indicator of future existing home sales, since there is usually one or two months\' lag between signing a contract and closing a deal. A reading of 100 indicates an average level of sales activity in 2001, when the index started. The reading was above the 100 threshold from March 2003 to April 2007, and then sank as the country fell into a deep recession caused by the housing debacle.