Sales of New Homes Struggled Last Month

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The U.S. Census Bureau this morning released data on new single-family home sales for February. Sales fell 4.6% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000, from an upwardly revised January sales figure of 431,000.

Economists had been expecting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 425,000. The February rate is 12.3% above the rate for February 2012. At the peak in 2005, new home sales posted a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 1.4 million.

The Census Bureau also reported that the median sales price for new homes sold in January was $246,800, about 9% above the January median, and the average sales price was $313,700, or up about 9.7% from January. In January, the median sales price for a new house was $226,400 and the average sales price was $286,300.

At the end of January, the number of new homes for sale totaled 152,000, a supply of 4.4 months, up slightly from an inventory totaling 150,000 at the end of December.

The new home inventory rose in February from 4.1 months of supply in January, which is good signal for new home builders. The sharply higher prices for new homes is also an encouraging sign for the builders.

Other data out today, including the S&P Case-Shiller house price index that rose to a six-year high in January, continue to point to a recovery in home prices.