New U.S. single-family home sales rebounded modestly in February as a surge in the West offset sharp declines in other regions, pointing to a gradually improving housing sector amid a dearth of properties available on the market.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday home sales rose 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 512,000 units. January’s sales pace was revised up to 502,000 units from the previously reported 494,000 units.
“The housing market is improving, though in fits and starts and not uniformly across the nation,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.
New single-family home sales were driven by a 38.5 percent jump in the West last month, which reversed January’s 32.7 percent dive. Sales plunged 24.2 percent in the Northeast and tumbled 17.9 percent in the Midwest. They fell 4.1 percent in the populous South.
Excluding the West, home sales were down 8.1 percent. New home sales account for about 9.2 percent of the housing market.
The report came on the heels of data on Monday showing a 7.1 percent drop in sales of previously owned homes in February, which was blamed on tight inventories, bad weather and difficulties adjusting the data during the month with a leap day.
The S&P homebuilding index .SPLRCHOME was down 0.88 percent, in line with a broadly weaker U.S. stock market.
Shares in D.R. Horton Inc (DHI.N), the largest U.S. homebuilder, fell 1.4 percent and rival Lennar Corp (LEN.N) slipped 0.8 percent.