New-home sales rose in August after downwardly revised July

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Purchases of new homes rebounded in August from the slowest pace in almost a year, a potential sign of stabilization in the market, according to government data Wednesday.

Single-family home sales rose 3.5% month-over-month to a 629,000 annualized pace (the estimate was 630,000) after a 608,000 rate in July (revised from 627,000); June was revised down to 618,000 from 638,000. The median sales price increased 1.9% year-over-year to $320,200. The supply of homes at the current sales rate fell to 6.1 months from 6.2 months.

While the sales gain was the first in three months, the downward revisions to prior figures indicate that the market in recent months was slower than previously reported, adding to broader indications of cooler demand in residential real estate.

The new-home market is being supported by the highest consumer confidence in 18 years and a robust job market. At the same time, rising prices and higher mortgage rates, amid a shortage of available and affordable homes, have been weighing on purchases.

The August gain was driven by advances in the Northeast and West, while the South, the biggest region, showed a decline.

New-home sales, tabulated when contracts get signed, account for about 10% of the market. They're considered a timelier barometer than purchases of previously owned homes, which are calculated when contracts close and are reported by the National Association of Realtors. Existing-home sales were unchanged in August after four straight declines, the NAR said last week.

At end of August, 318,000 new houses were on market, the most since February 2009. The Northeast pace of home sales rose 47.8% to 34,000, the West was up 9.1% to 168,000 and the Midwest advanced 2.7% to 77,000. Sales declined 1.7% in South to a 350,000 pace.

The report shows 90% confidence that the change in sales last month ranged from a 10.2% drop to a 17.2% increase, underscoring the volatility of the data. The report is released jointly by the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington.

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