Pulse of housing market growing stronger

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WASHINGTON (A.P.) – New U.S. home sales rose by the largest amount in more than eight years last month, in another sign the housing market is finally bouncing back from the worst downturn in decades.

The Commerce Department said Monday that sales rose 11 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000, from an upwardly revised May rate of 346,000. It was the strongest sales pace since November 2008 and exceeded the forecasts of economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters, who expected a pace of 360,000 units. The last time sales rose so dramatically was in December 2000.

Sales have risen for three straight months. The median sales price of $206,200, however, was down 12 percent from $234,300 a year earlier and down nearly 6 percent from $219,000 in May.

The report is another encouraging sign that the beleaguered housing sector is finally coming back to life. Last Thursday, the National Association of Realtors reported that home resales posted a monthly increase of 3.6 percent in June.

There were 281,000 new homes for sale at the end of June, down more than 4 percent from May. At the current sales pace, that represents 8.8 months of supply-the lowest level since October 2007.

Fallout from the housing crisis has played a central role in the U.S. recession, now the longest since World War II. Foreclosures have spiked, homebuilders have slashed construction, and financial companies have lost billions.