The Pending Home Sales Index inched up 0.4% to 97.9 for April, according to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) report released today.

After jumping a revised 3.4% for March, analysts hadn't expected as much from April. However, their 1% estimate proved overly optimistic for this latest report. And despite the recent sales boosts, pending home sales are still 9.3% below their reading for April 2013.

The pending home sales index is based on contract signings (with sales usually finalized one or two months later) and is benchmarked to 2001 contract activity. (An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year the association examined data).

Despite April's slow rise, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun remains optimistic about longer-term trends for the housing market. "Higher inventory levels are giving buyers more choices, and a slight decline in mortgage interest rates this spring is raising prospective home buyers' confidence," Yun said in a statement today. "An uptrend in closed sales is expected, although some months will encounter a modest setback."

Looking ahead, the NAR expects the median existing-home price to increase 5% to 6% for 2014 overall, while existing-home sales are expected to clock in "modestly below" 2013 levels.