Sales of newly built U.S. single-family homes unexpectedly rose at their fastest pace in 10 months in February, while prices fell by a record margin from a year ago, a government report showed on Wednesday.
The Commerce Department said sales rose 4.7 percent to a 337,000 annual pace, the fastest increase since April last year, from an upwardly revised 322,000 in January. Despite the increase, February sales were the second lowest ever after the drop in January to the slowest pace in records going back to 1963, the department said.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales at a 300,000 rate in February.
The median sales price in February fell a record 18.1 percent to $200,900 from a year earlier, the department said. The median marks the half-way point, with half of all houses sold above that level and half below.
The inventory of homes available for sale in February was at 330,000, the smallest since June 2002. The February sales pace left the supply of homes available for sale at 12.2 month's worth.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman)