New home sales power higher in August, soar by 18 percent

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes surged in August and hit their highest level in more than six years, offering confirmation that the housing recovery remains on course.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday sales jumped 18.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000 units. That was the highest level since May 2008 and marked the second straight month of gains.

July's sales were revised to show a 1.9 percent gain instead of the previously reported 2.4 percent drop.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales rising to only a 430,000-unit pace last month.

While the new home sales segment accounts for only 9.1 percent of the housing market, the increase last month should allay fears of renewed housing weakness after a surprise decline in home resales last month.

A survey last week showed homebuilder sentiment hit its highest level in nearly nine years in September, with builders reporting a sharp pick-up in buyer traffic.

In August, new home sales soared 50 percent in the West to their highest level since January 2008.

Sales in the populous South increased 7.8 percent to their highest level in 10 months. In the Northeast, sales rose 29.2 percent, but were flat in the Midwest.

Despite the rise in sales, the stock of new houses hit its highest level in four years. At August's sales pace it would take 4.8 months to clear the supply of houses on the market. That compared to 5.6 months in July.

Six months' supply is normally considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.