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Following on the heels of a somewhat disappointing report on sales of existing homes in March, which had been issued by the National Association of Realtors yesterday morning, there would seem to have been some trepidation ahead of this release of the March figures on new home sales earlier today by the Commerce Department.

However, unlike yesterday's data, the new home sales report was about in line with expectations and did manage to show a nominal increase over the comparable February sales pace. Specifically, Commerce noted that sales of single-family homes had climbed last month by 1.5%, to an annualized rate of 417,000 homes. In February, such sales had totaled 411,000 homes. However, the latest month's volume was still notable lower than the annualized January level of 445,000 homes sold.

As with most metrics, including sales of existing homes, the month-to-month wrinkles do not change the strong year-to-year tone. To wit, while existing home sales dipped on a consecutive-month basis, they were well up (10.3%) from the year before. It was a similar story in sales of new homes, where the month-to-month gain of 1.5% was overwhelmed by the 18.5% increase tabulated on a year-over-year basis.

Meanwhile, housing prices continue to climb, with the median price of a new home rising in March of this year to $247,000. That was up 3.0% from the March, 2012 median price of $239,800. Also, the number of U.S. homes listed for sale in March was 153,000, which represented just a 4.4 month supply. That is considered low, with the average level of such inventories being closer to six months. In fact, it is the generally low inventory readings in both the new and existing home categories that are restraining growth, but also are positive factors for housing demand going forward.

As to the regional breakdown last month, volume was up 20.6% in the Northeast, the nation's smallest region; sales were off, though by 12.1% in the Midwest, the second smallest region; they were up by 19.4% in the South, the largest of the four regions, but were down by a significant 19.4% in the West.

All in all, this was a mildly reassuring report, especially coming after both yesterday's disappointing report on existing home sales and an overall string of recently disconcerting surveys on the overall U.S. economic makeup.         


At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.