A jump in sales of previously occupied homes and further gains in home construction suggest the U.S. housing recovery is gaining momentum. The pair of reports Wednesday follows other signs of steady progress in the housing market after years of stagnation. New-home sales are up, builder confidence has reached its highest level in more than six years and increases in home prices appear to be sustainable. Sales and construction rates are still below healthy levels, economists caution. But the improvement has been steady. And the broader economy is likely to benefit. When home prices rise, Americans typically feel wealthier and spend more — a point Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made last week after the Fed unveiled a plan to lower mortgage rates. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of the economic growth.