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U.S. New Home Sales Unexpectedly Edge Lower In December

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New home sales unexpectedly showed a modest decrease in the month of December, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Monday.

The report said new home sales fell by 0.4 percent to an annual rate of 694,000 in December from a downwardly revised 697,000 in November.

The drop surprised economists, who had expected new home sales to surge up by 1.5 percent to an annual rate of 730,000 in December from the 719,000 originally reported for the previous month.

Revised data also showed new home sales slumped by 1.1 percent in November compared to the previously reported 1.3 percent jump.

The unexpected decrease was largely due to a steep drop in new home sales in the South, which plunged by 15.4 percent to a rate of 347,000.

New home sales in the Northeast also plummeted by 11.8 percent, while new home sales spiked by 10.1 percent in the Midwest and by 31.0 percent in the West.

Meanwhile, the report said the median sales price of new houses sold in December was $331,400, up 3.3 percent from $320,900 in November and up 0.5 percent from $329,700 in the same month a year ago.

The estimate of new houses for sale at the end of December was 327,000, representing 5.7 months of supply at the current sales rate.

The Commerce Department said an estimated 681,000 new homes were sold in 2019, which is 10.3 percent above the 2018 figure of 617,000.

Last Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors released a separate report showing existing home sales rebounded by much more than anticipated in the month of December.

NAR said existing home sales spiked by 3.6 percent to an annual rate of 5.54 million in December after tumbling by 1.7 percent to a rate of 5.35 million in November. Economists had expected existing home sales to jump by 1.2 percent to an annual rate of 5.43 million.

With the much bigger than expected monthly increase, existing home sales in December were up by 10.8 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

On a full-year basis, NAR said total existing home sales came in at 5.34 million in 2019, unchanged from the previous year.

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