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U.S. New Home Sales Spike To More Than Twelve-Year High In January

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Partly reflecting sharp increases in the Midwest and West, the Commerce Department released a report on Wednesday showing new home sales in the U.S. jumped to their highest level in over twelve years in the month of January.

The report said new home sales spiked by 7.9 percent to an annual rate of 764,000 in January after jumping by 2.3 percent to an upwardly revised rate of 708,000 in December.

Economists had expected new home sales to surge up by 2.3 percent to an annual rate of 710,000 from the 694,000 originally reported for the previous month.

With the much bigger than expected increase, new home sales reached their highest annual rate since hitting 778,000 in July of 2007.

The jump in new home sales came as sales in the Midwest and West soared by 30.3 percent and 23.5 percent, respectively.

New home sales in the Northeast also shot up by 4.8 percent, while new home sales in the South tumbled by 4.4 percent.

The Commerce Department also said the median sales price of new houses sold was a record high $348,200 in January, up 7.4 percent from $324,100 in December and up 14 percent from $305,400 in the same month a year ago.

A note from economists at Oxford Economics said the jump in prices was partly due to a "shift in the composition of sales toward higher-priced homes."

"Homebuilders have been reducing the sizes of new homes to appeal to younger buyers with more moderate incomes, but there is probably still a lack of supply at lower price points," the economists said.

The estimate of new houses for sale at the end of January was 324,000, representing 5.1 months of supply at the current sales rate. The months of supply is down from 5.5 months in December.

Last Friday, the National Association of Realtors released a separate report showing existing home sales pulled back in January after jumping in December, with sales continuing a fluctuating pattern of monthly increases and declines.

NAR said existing home sales slumped by 1.3 percent to an annual rate of 5.46 million in January after surging up by 3.9 percent to a revised rate of 5.53 million in December. Economists had expected existing home sales to tumble by 1.8 percent.

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