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New-home sales fell 3.3 percent in Feb.



Published: Wed, March 26, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Fewer people bought new U.S. homes in February. Sales fell to their slowest pace in five months, a sign that the housing market has yet to recover fully from brutal winter weather.

Sales of new homes declined 3.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was down from a revised rate of 455,000 in January.

Buying dropped off during February in the Northeast, which was battered by snowstorms. It also fell in Western states, where last year’s price increases have made homes less affordable.

New-home sales have declined 1.1 percent over the past 12 months. Despite the seasonal hit by a cold winter, sales still are on track to exceed the 428,000 total from 2013, when they rose 16.3 percent to their highest level in five years.

Most economists expect sales to rebound as the weather improves and the spring buying season begins. Not only does warmer weather bring more traffic to open houses, but families are usually reluctant to move in the middle of the school year.

Still, several other indicators from February suggest that a sectorwide rebound has yet to begin.

An index tracking mortgage applications fell last month to its lowest level since December 2000. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported its seasonally adjusted index of refinancing and home-buying demand dropped 8.5 percent to 348.5 in the week ending Feb. 21.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales declined 0.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.6 million. That was the sixth decline in the past seven months.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index was 46 in February. Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.

And builders started work on 907,000 homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in February, the Commerce Department said last week. That was down 0.2 percent from January, when construction had fallen 11.2 percent.


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