Sales of newly built U.S. single-family homes slipped slightly in May, according to Commerce Department data on Wednesday that underscored that conditions in the hard-hit housing market remain fragile.

The annual sales pace of 342,000 was a 0.6 percent decline from April. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales would notch a 360,000 rate. It also remained far below the 509,000 annualized pace of May, 2008.

But the median sales price rose to $221,600 from $212,600 in April and was the highest since December, when it was $229,600. The median marks the half-way point, with half of all houses sold above that level and half below.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)