WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New single-family home sales rose in July but prices fell, giving mixed signals about the strength of the country's budding housing market recovery.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday sales increased 3.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted 372,000-unit annual rate. That matched a two-year high registered in April.
The government's estimates for new home sales are prone to substantial revisions, and June's sales pace was revised up to 359,000 units from the previously reported 350,000 units.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales at a 365,000-unit rate last month. Compared to July last year, new home sales were up 25.3 percent.
The housing market has been a relative bright spot in the U.S. economy in recent months and home building is expected to add to economic growth this year for the first time since 2005.
Still, the data showed a drop in prices. Last month, the median price of a new home fell 2.5 percent in July from a year earlier to $224,200.
The inventory of new homes on the market fell 0.7 percent to a record low 142,000 in July. At July's sales pace it would take 4.6 months to clear the houses from the market, down from 4.8 months in June.
New home sales last month were boosted by a 76.5 percent increase in the Northeast, though the Commerce Department said that number could be revised substantially.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Neil Stempleman)