U.S. existing home sales rose to 4.99 million units in May, or 2.0%, following April's unrevised sales figure of 4.89 million. This is the third month that home sales have remained under the 5 million mark.

Economists were expecting the May data to rise to 4.95 million, or 1.2%, following the 1.0% decline in April. This marks the first monthly rise in sales in two months, but still leaves sales down 15.9% from a year ago, according to figures released by the National Association of Realtors. Single-family unit sales came in at 4.41 million, down from a rate of 4.34 million in the previous month.

The national median existing home price rose to $208,300 in May, up from the downwardly revised April figure of $201,200, but represents a 6.3% decline from a year ago.

Total housing inventories came in at a 10.8-month supply in May, down from the 11.2-month supply in April.

Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs from the U.S. Census Bureau's series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit.

By Stephen Huebl and edited by Cristina Markham