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New U.S. single-family home sales fell unexpectedly in October and prices dropped to a seven-year low, a government report showed on Wednesday, pointing to sustained weakness in the housing market following the end of a home-buyer tax credit.
The Commerce Department said sales dropped 8.1 percent to a 283,000 unit annual rate after an upwardly revised 308,000 unit pace in September.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales rising to a 310,000 unit pace in October. Compared to October last year, sales were down 28.5 percent.
Housing remains one of the weak spots in the economy, which is showing some strength. With unemployment stuck at an uncomfortably high 9.6 percent, homeowners are struggling to hang on to their houses, keeping the foreclosure wave high and stifling the sector's recovery. Data on Tuesday showed a drop in the sales of previously owned homes last month.
October's weak sales pace pushed up the supply of new homes on the market to 8.6 months' worth from 7.9 months' worth in September. However, there were 202,000 new homes available for sale in October, the lowest since June 1968.
The median sale price for a new home dropped a record 13.9 percent last month from September to $194,900, the lowest since October 2003. Compared to October last year, the median price fell 9.4 percent, the largest drop since July 2009.