WASHINGTON - Sales of new single-family houses rose 3.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 372,000 in July, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The increase in the sales pace followed a revised June rate of 359,000, originally reported as 350,000.

The July rate was above the median annual rate of 365,000 projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, but was 25.3% above the July 2011 estimate of 297,000.

New home sales rose 76.5% to 30,000 from 17,000 in the Northeast, the highest gain since May 2003, when they were up 87.8%. Sales rose 7.7% to 56,000 from 52,000 in the Midwest. Sales fell 1.6% to 180,000 from 183,000 in the South, and dipped 0.9% to 106,000 from 107,000 in the West.

The median sales price of new houses fell 2.1% to $224,200 in July, from the revised June median price of $229,100. The July price was the lowest since January when it was $221,700.

On a year-over-year basis, the median price fell 2.5% from $229,900 in July 2011.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of July was 142,000, a 0.7% drop from the June figure of 143,000. That represents a supply of 4.6 months at the current sales rate.

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