US new-home sales fell 7.8% in May

WASHINGTON — Sales of new U.S. homes slumped 7.8% in May, as sales plunged in the pricier Northeastern and Western markets.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 626,000 in May, down from 679,000 in April. During the first five months of the year, purchases of new homes have fallen 3.7% compared to the same period in 2018.

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Lower mortgage rates and a healthy job market have yet to unleash more home-buying. Sales of new homes plummeted 35.9% in the West and 17.6% in the Northeast. New-home sales rose 4.9% in the South and 6.3% in the Midwest, which are generally more affordable markets.

The median sales price of a new home fell 2.7% from a year ago to $308,000.

Still, there are signs that sales could recover.

Sales of existing homes — which are the bulk of the market — rebounded in May. They increased 2.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.34 million, evidence that lower mortgage rates might ultimately improve buying.

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