New Homes Sales Surge 10%

New home
Source: Thinkstock
The U.S. Census Bureau Wednesday morning released data on new single-family home sales for January. Sales rose 9.6% month-over-month, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000, from a revised December sales figure of 427,000. Economists had expected a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 414,000. The January rate is 2.3%, above the rate for January 2013. At the peak in 2005, new home sales posted a seasonally adjusted annual rate of nearly 1.4 million.

New home sales also fell in December from a November reading of 450,000. The upward revision to the initial December reading of 414,000 makes the January number look even better.

The Census Bureau also reported that the median sales price for new homes sold in January was $260,100 and the average sales price was $322,800. At the end of January, the number of new homes for sale totaled 184,000, a supply of 4.7 months at the current sales rate.

Two important takeaways here are that the average price declined about $10,000 month-over-month and that inventory rose by about 13,000 housing units. As inventory increases, which is showing up in nearly every report on housing over the past year, the rate of growth in home prices will slow. That is what is happening now.

Homebuilder stocks got a bit of a boost from the report. Meritage Homes Corp. (NYSE: MTH) was up nearly 2%, at $48.89 in a 52-week range of $38.42 to $52.95. Meritage shares gained nearly 20% in the past 12 months, but they have risen only 1.7% since the beginning of this year.

TRI Pointe Homes Inc. (NYSE: TPH) shares were up 2.3%, at $17.77 in a 52-week range of $13.43 to $21.25. Shares are down nearly 5% over the past 12 months and down more than 9% since January 1.

D.R. Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI) stock was up 1.6%, at $24.52 in a 52-week range of $17.52 to $27.75. Shares are up about 8.5% in the past 12 months and more than 10.5% in the year to date.