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US new home sales up sharply

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Charles Krupa/AP

(Read caption) "Sold" signs are beginning to pop up more frequently in front of newly constructed homes like this one in Wellesley, Mass. In the Northeast, sales of new homes in July rose 10 percent above the same period a year ago, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That's the first year-over-year increase of any region in the US in nearly two years.

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There's fresh evidence that the housing market is recovering from its record lows set in January.

New home sales last month reached an annual rate of 433,000, nearly 10 percent above seasonally adjusted total for June and 32 percent higher than January's historic low, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

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The market was especially buoyant for the Northeast, which in July became the first region in nearly two years to show a year-over-year increase in new home sales. The region's total sales was up nearly 10 percent for the year and 32 percent above June's total.

All the other regions except the Midwest showed gains over June's totals. But year-over-year, they were still reporting declines: down 5 percent in the Midwest; 15 percent in the West; and 18 percent in the South.

By historic standards, the housing market overall remains depressed. July's national total rated as one of the 50 worst in monthly records going back to 1963.

"New home sales have clearly moved off of their cyclical lows," wrote Richard Moody, chief economist at Forward Capital, in an analysis. "But there remains ample reason to doubt whether this increase in sales can be sustained over coming months, particularly given that the first-time buyer tax credit is set to expire Nov. 30."
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