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New-home sales show double-digit drop

Sales of new single-family houses in January 2011 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 284,000, according to estimates released jointly Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The pace is 12.6% below the revised December rate of 325,000. January sales were 18.6% below the January 2010 estimate of 349,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in January 2011 was $230,600; the average sales price was $260,300. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of January was 188,000. This represents a supply of 7.9 months at the current sales rate.

Thursday's report from the Commerce Department was far less optimistic than the existing-home sales report issued the day prior by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In it, the NAR estimated existing-home sales were up 2.7% compared with last month and up 5.3% compared with last year.

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