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New home sales rise, prices surge to record highs

(Reuters) - Sales of new single-family homes rose 2.3 percent in April, and prices climbed to record high levels, offering strong proof the sector's rebound trend is intact.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday sales increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 454,000 units. Economists polled by Reuters had expected sales to rise to 425,000-unit rate last month.

The median sales price for a new home was $271,600, up 14.9 percent from a year ago, and the highest on record since the Commerce Department began tracking the data in the early 1960s. Home prices are rising across the country and are helping consumers and the economy.

In April, the inventory of new homes on the market rose 3.3 percent to 156,000 units, the highest since October 2011.

At April's sales pace it would take 4.1 months to clear the houses on the market, the same pace as in March. Inventories often rise about this time of year as homeowners prepare to sell their properties during spring selling season.

A supply of six months is normally considered as a healthy balance between supply and demand. The low months' supply is pushing up new home prices.

Sales in April were 29 percent higher than a year ago, though the rate is still remain low by historical standards.

(Reporting by Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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