WASHINGTON (AFP) - US existing-home sales fell for the third consecutive month in February, underscoring weakness in the housing sector which was at the epicenter of the global financial crisis. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said sales of single-family and townhomes and condominiums slipped 0.6 percent nationally to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.02 million units from 5.05 million in January. Most analysts had expected sales to reach around 5.0 million units in February. The association said that widespread winter storms in the second month of the year might mask underlying demand. The February number, however, was 7.0 percent higher than the 4.69m-unit pace in the same month last year. Some closings were simply postponed by winter storms, but buyers couldnt get out to look at homes in some areas and that should negatively impact near-term contract activity, said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. Although sales have been higher than year-ago levels for eight straight months and home prices are much more stable compared to the past few years, the housing recovery is fragile at the moment, he said. The US economy is recovering from a financial crisis stemming from a massive home mortgage meltdown that plunged the country into a brutal recession.