Sales of new homes fell to a new low in February, underscoring the steep challenges facing the U.S. as it tries to recover from one of the worst housing busts in history.
The West was the only region to buck the trend in February, with sales jumping 20.8% from January.
Last month's reading on new home sales marked the fourth consecutive month that sales have fallen, according to the Commerce Department. The report, released Wednesday, came a day after the National Assn. of Realtors said that sales of previously owned homes in February slumped for the third consecutive month.
Taken together, the reports indicate that the U.S. housing recovery is struggling to maintain its momentum despite intense government support.
"What's the story on housing?" Weiss Research analyst Michael D. Larson wrote in a note to clients. "The market remains stuck in the doldrums, that's what."
New homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 308,000 units in February, a 2.2% drop from an upwardly revised January pace of 315,000 units and 13% below the 354,000 estimate for February 2009. It was the lowest sales level since the government began tracking statistics in 1963.