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US new home sales up 2.3 percent in April

WASHINGTON — Sales of new homes rose in April and nearly matched the fastest pace in five years, driving the median price to a record high. The gains suggest the housing recovery is strengthening.

New home sales increased 2.3 percent from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 454,000, the Commerce Department said — slightly below January’s pace of 458,000, which was the fastest since July 2008.

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Sales are still below the 700,000 pace consistent with healthy markets, but are up 29 percent over the past year.

The median sales price jumped 8.3 percent in April from March to $271,600. That’s the highest on records going back to 1993. It is not adjusted for inflation.

Prices are rising quickly because more people are bidding on a limited number of homes. The supply of new homes for sale increased 3.3 percent in April to 156,000. That’s the most in 18 months, although it’s still only slightly above the record low of 142,000 set in July 2012.

Builders are growing more confident in the housing recovery and have started to ramp up construction. In April, they requested permits to build homes at fastest pace in nearly five years.

Sales of new homes increased 10.8 percent in the West in April and 3 percent in the South. They fell 16.7 percent in the Northeast and 4.8 percent in the Midwest.

A report Wednesday said sales of previously owned homes rose in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million, a 3½-year high.

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