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US new home sales jump in March

media Sales of new homes surged in the United States in March GETTY/AFP

US new home sales surged in March, defying expectations, with all but one region of the country posting solid gains, the government reported Tuesday.

It was the third consecutive monthly increase and contrasts with the data for sales of existing homes, and came despite a downward revision to the figures for February.

However, the median sales price of new homes fell to $302,700 from $315,200 in February, the Commerce Department reported.

Sales of newly-constructed single-family homes jumped 4.5 percent last month to seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 692,000, which was three percent higher than the sales pace a year earlier, according to the report. Economists had been expecting a decline to 646,000.

The housing industry is a key driver of the economy, and with the Federal Reserve signaling interest rates will not rise this year, a boost in home sales was to be expected and the trend in mortgage applications has mostly been moving higher.

But construction firms around the country have been complaining for many months that they cannot find enough workers and that is delaying some projects.

However, the data are notoriously volatile so economists warn against reading too much into a single month's numbers.

Even so, the monthly average home sales for the first three months of the year at 660,000 has outstripped the previous two quarters.

The Northeast region was the only one to post a decline, falling 22 percent compared to February, and down 20 percent from the same month of last year.

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