Sales of new single-family U.S. homes fell 1.8 percent in February while the median sales
price was down from a year ago and inventories fell modestly, according to a government report that delivered uneven news for the ailing housing sector.
The pace of sales fell to an annual rate of 590,000 from an upwardly revised rate of 601,000 in January, the Commerce Department said.
Economists polled by Reuters were expecting February sales to fall to a 580,000 rate from the previously reported rate of 588,000 in January.
The inventory of unsold homes fell 2.1 percent to 471,000 which, at the current sales pace, would take 9.8 months to clear and matched the months' supply in January.
The February median sales price for a new home was down 2.7 percent from the year-ago level. Still, the median home price was up 8.2 percent to $244,100 in February from the $225,600 of the previous month.
Analysts said the new homes sales data, coupled with other recent housing figures, suggested the market may be starting to show early signs of stabilizing.
"The good news in today's report parallels the sideways pattern in existing home sales over the last four months, as revealed Monday, along with the similar sideways trend in the housing starts and permits figures since December at around a 1.0 million rate," analysts at Action Economics said in a report.
The data comes two days after a report that showed the pace of existing homes sales in February rose for the first time since July as prices posted a record drop from their year-ago
levels. The report from the National Association of Realtors found the existing home sales pace rose 2.9 percent to a 5.03 million-unit annual rate.