WASHINGTON – Sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose a greater-than-expected 10 percent in September but remained at depressed levels that point to a painful and protracted recovery for the housing market.

The rise took sales to an annual rate of 4.53-million units, the National Association of Realtors said on Monday. It was the second monthly gain and far outstripped economists’ expectations for an increase to a 4.30 million-unit pace.