Sales of new single-family homes jumped to a more than five-year high in January, the U.S. government said in a report Wednesday that could ease concerns of a sharp slowdown in the housing market.
The Commerce Department reported that sales jumped 9.6 percent to an annual rate of 468,000 units, the highest level since July 2008. Economists had expected new-home sales to decline to a 400,000-unit pace last month.
Sales of new homes are up 2.2 percent compared with January 2013. The median price of a new home last month was up 3.4 percent from a year ago.
The supply of hew houses on the market was unchanged in January from the previous month at 184,000. At the January sales pace, it would take 4.7 months to clear the supply of homes on the market, down from 5.2 months in December. A supply of 6.0 months is considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.
The housing market lost momentum in the second half of 2013 following an increase in mortgage rates and a persistent shortage of properties on the market. Declines in residential construction, applications for building permits, and sales of previously-owned homes last month had raised concerns that the sector, which is key to the broader economic recovery, was slowing sharply.