Sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose in August to the highest level in more than six years as buyers rushed to lock in interest rates before they increased further, Bloomberg reported. Purchases climbed 1.7 percent to a 5.48 million annual rate, the most since February 2007, the National Association of Realtors said today. The housing data reflect transactions begun in June or July, when buyers were trying to get loans at mortgage rates near record lows. The Realtors' chief economist said sales probably will cool. The U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday that groundbreakings for U.S. single-family homes rose in August and permits for future construction hit a five-year high, pointing to resilience in the housing market recovery in the face of higher mortgage rates.