US new home sales highest in 7 months

By AFP, Washington

Sales of new US homes rose sharply in February, to their highest level in seven months, while the average price reached a new record, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
The exceptionally tight housing market continued to push prices north, as the average price for a new single-family home saw the biggest increase in more than two years.
However, there were signs inventories finally began to pick up to meet strong demand from prospective homebuyers, with the stock of houses available for sale hitting the highest level since July 2009.
New single-family home sales in February posted their second consecutive monthly increase, to an annual rate of 592,000, seasonally adjusted, according to the report.
The result handily surpassed the consensus forecast for 560,000 homes sold in the month and was 6.1 percent above January's rate, the largest monthly increase since July.
February's sales rate were 12.8 percent higher than the same month last year.
The housing data follow industry figures released Wednesday showing that resales of existing homes cooled in February from a 10-year high, down 3.7 percent, but were still significantly higher than the same month of 2016.
Analysts say supply has badly lagged pent-up demand for homes that has built following the global financial crisis and recession, driving up prices.
Last month's gains were driven in large part by a 30.9 percent spike in the Midwest, with 89,000 new units changing hands, the highest level since November 2007.
The average price nationwide shot up 20.3 percent to $390,400, the highest ever recorded. However, the median sales price fell 3.9 percent to $296,200, marking a second monthly decline.
Inventories of new homes for sale rose 1.5 percent in the month to 266,000, the highest since July 2009.
And the number of new homes on the market that were either not yet started or still under construction hit their highest levels since 2008.