Sales of existing homes eased up 0.6% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million, according to a National Association of Realtors report released today.

Although this marks an improvement over March's unrevised 0.6% slump, analysts had expected sales to hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.0 million.

While sales managed only a slight increase, buyer traffic and housing inventories could point to positive times ahead. According to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, "The robust housing market recovery is occurring in spite of tight access to credit and limited inventory. Without these frictions, existing-home sales easily would be well above the 5-million unit pace."

Existing-home sales are at the highest pace since November 2009, when the market spiked to 5.44 million in response to the homebuyer tax credit, according to today's report. Total sales have been above year-ago levels for 22 consecutive months, while prices show 14 consecutive months of year-over-year increases.

Yun notes that buyer traffic is up 31% year-over-year, while sales have increased only 10% in the same time. In addition, housing inventory increased 11.9% to a seasonally adjusted 2.16 million homes, equivalent to a 5.2-month supply at current sales rates. Compared to just 4.7 months in March, this marks significant supply expansion, but still not enough to stop the national median existing-home price from heading 11% higher since last April, to $192,800.