Purchases of existing houses increased 5.9 percent to a 5.04 million annual rate, the most since November 2009, the National Association of Realtors reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a 4.9 million rate. 

“Housing is going from being a powerful headwind to the economy to what will be a powerful tailwind,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “It turned around in 2012, and I think it’s going to take off in 2013.”