WASHINGTON - Sales of new single-family houses were down 1.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000 in February, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The February rate was below the 325,000 median annual rate projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters and less than the revised January rate of 318,000, originally reported as 321,000. The rate was 11.4% above the February 2011 level of 281,000.

New home sales rose in the Northeast by 14.3% and in the West by 8.0%, but they fell by 7.2% in the South and by 2.4% in the Midwest.

The median sales price of new houses sold in February climbed 8.3% to $233,700, and the average sales price rose 2.2% to $267,700.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of February was 150,000, the same as the downwardly revised January supply, which is a record low. That represents a supply of 5.8 months at the current sales rate.

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