WASHINGTON - Sales of new single-family houses rose 7.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000 in May, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

The unrevised April rate was 343,000.

The May rate was well above the 346,000 median annual rate projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, and was 19.8% above the May 2011 level of 308,000. The 369,000 annual rate achieved in May was the highest since a 422,000 pace in April 2010.

New home sales rose 36.7% in the Northeast and 12.7% in the South, but fell 10.6% in the Midwest. The West experienced a 3.5% decline in new home sales.

The median sales price of new houses slipped 0.6% to $234,500 from the revised April price of $236,000. The average sales price fell 3.5% to $273,900 from the $283,900 reported the previous month.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of May was 145,000, a 0.7% advance from the April figure of 144,000. That represents a supply of 4.7 months at the current sales rate, the lowest since a 4.5 month supply in October 2005.

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