Sales of new homes in the United States skidded in December, a fresh sign of distress in the collapsed housing market, official data showed Thursday.
Sales of new single-family homes fell to an annual rate of 307,000, down 2.2 percent from November, the Commerce Department said.
The December decline surprised most analysts, who had predicted sales would rise for the third month in a row, by 1.9 percent.
A glut of foreclosures, high unemployment and tight mortgage lending has sidelined buyers since the housing price bubble burst in 2006.
There was a glimmer of good news in the department's report: Home prices rose.
The average sales price of new homes was $266,000 in December, up from $250,300 in November.
The decline in new home sales came in contrast to a sharp rise in sales of previously occupied homes in December, the third month of gains reported by the National Association of Realtors, that experts said pointed to some recovery in the housing market.