WASHINGTON -- Sales of new single-family houses dropped 4.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000 in February, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

The decelerated sales pace followed a revised rate of 431,000 in January, originally reported as 437,000.

The February rate was short of that projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who foresaw a 420,000 pace. The sales rate was 12.3% above the February 2012 estimate of 366,000.

New home sales dipped in three of the four geographical regions. Sales declined 13.3% in the Northeast, 9.7% in the South, and 2.1% in the West. The Midwest experienced a 13.7% sales increase and its strongest month since December 2011.

The median sales price of new houses rose 3% to $246,800 in February, from the revised January median price of $239,600. On a year-over-year basis, the median price ticked up 2.9% above $239,900 in February 2012.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of February was 152,000, a slight increase from January's revised supply of 150,000. The February figure represents a supply of 4.4 months at the current sales rate.

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