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Slowdown seen in new-home sales

Sales of newly built, single-family homes declined 8.4% in June 2012 compared with the previous month, reaching an annual rate of 350,000 units, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

The bad news follows similar numbers from the National Association of Realtors, which reported last week that completed sales transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops declined 5.4% in June 2012 compared with May.

Both agencies saw year-over-year improvements, however. June’s sales were 16% higher than they were in June 2011, according to the latest report from the Census Bureau.

"While we would have liked to see a third consecutive month of new-home sales gains in June, the fact remains that the sales numbers are up on both a quarterly and yearly basis, while builders continue to report that they are seeing more serious buyers in the market for a newly constructed home with all of the latest updates," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. 

On a regional basis, new-home sales gained 14.6% in the Midwest and 2.1% in the West, but fell 8.6% in the South and 60% in the Northeast in June. 

IHS Global Insight attributed the overall sales decrease mostly on the “hard-to-understand sales plunge in the Northeast that may just be a bad reading.” Which is one of several reasons why the economic and financial advisory firm takes the longer view on housing data. “We prefer looking at moving averages or quarterly figures, since these estimates iron out volatility and highlights trends,” wrote economists Patrick Newport and Michele Valverde.