U.S. new-home sales fell 1.6 percent in February, but prices nationwide jumped to their highest level in eight months, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000 units, down from January's downward-revised 318,000 units. The initial January figure was 321,000 sales of new homes. 

Sales missed expectations from economists surveyed by Reuters, who had predicted 325,000 units would be sold. An analyst survey by Dow Jones Newswires also forecast sales of 325,000 units.

February sales were 11.4 percent higher than the same month in 2011.

The median price of a new home $233,700, up 6.2 percent from February 2011. That was the highest median price recorded since last June. 

New-home sales made up only 7 percent of the housing market last year, but new construction is an important economic driver that creates jobs. New homes are also generally more expensive than resales.

On Monday, the National Association of Home Builders reported that its index of housing-market confidence was flat at 28 in March after increasing for five consecutive months.

Sales of existing homes also fell in February to an annual rate of 4.59 million, the National Association of Realtors reported, but pricing increased.