WASHINGTON — Sales of new single-family houses fell 7.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 328,000 in March, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

The March rate was above the 320,000 median annual rate projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, but below the revised February rate of 353,000, originally reported as 313,000. Sales were 7.5% better than in March 2011.

New home sales rose 7.7% in the Northeast and 3.1% in the South, but those gains could not offset drops of 27.0% in the West and 20.0% in the Midwest.

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