U.S. New Home Sales Pull Back Off Four-Year High In February

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After reporting U.S. new home sales at their highest level in over four years in the previous month, the Commerce Department released a report on Tuesday showing that new home sales pulled back by more than expected in the month of February.

The report said new home sales fell 4.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000 in February from the revised January rate of 431,000.

Economists had expected new home sales to drop to 425,000 from the 437,000 originally reported for the previous month.

The bigger than expected drop by new home sales came after the annual rate of sales reached its highest level since September of 2008 in January.

Despite the monthly decrease, the Commerce Department noted that new home sales remain 12.3 percent above the annual rate of 366,000 seen in February of 2012.

The monthly drop in new home sales reflected a 13.3 percent decrease in sales in the Northeast as well as a 9.7 percent slump in sales in the South.

New home sales in the West edged down by a more modest 2.1 percent, while new home sales in the Midwest rose by 13.7 percent.

The report also showed that the median price of new houses sold in February was $246,800, up 3 percent from $239,600 in January and up 2.9 percent from $239,900 in the same month a year ago.

Additionally, the Commerce Department said the estimate of new homes for sale rose to 152,000 at the end of February from 150,000 at the end of January.

The number of new homes for sale represents 4.4 months of supply at the current sales rate compared to 4.2 months of supply in January.

Last Thursday, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing a modest increase in existing home sales in the month of February

NAR said existing home sales rose 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.94 million in January. Economists had been expecting existing home sales to climb to an annual rate of 5.01 million.

While the annual rate of existing home sales in February came in slightly below economist estimates, it still reflected the highest level since November of 2009.

On Wednesday, NAR is scheduled to release a separate report on pending home sales in the month of February. Economists expect pending home sales to edge down by 0.7 percent after reaching a two-year high in the previous month.

A pending home sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

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