US new home sales unexpectedly fall in February

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 9:19 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sales of new U.S. single-family homes unexpectedly fell in February, but data for the prior month was revised higher, pointing to underlying strength as a shortage of previously owned houses on the market persists.

New home sales slipped 0.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 662,000 units last month, the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau said on Monday. The sales pace for January was revised up to 664,000 units from the previously reported 661,000 units.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for more than 10% of U.S. home sales, rising to a rate of 675,000 units.

New home sales are counted at the signing of a contract, making them a leading indicator of the housing market. They, however, can be volatile on a month-to-month basis. Sales advanced 5.9% on a year-on-year basis in February.

The new homes market has defied 525 basis points worth of interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve since March 2022, bolstered by a dearth of previously owned houses on the market.

Builders are ramping up construction, while offering price cuts and other incentives as well as reducing floor size to make housing more affordable. The government reported last week that housing completions hit their highest level in 17 years in February. More new home supply is in the pipeline.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)