US new-home sales jump 16 percent; highest in 4-plus years

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A for sale sign is seen in front of a home in Los Angeles. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that U.S. new-home sales jumped 16 percent in January from the previous month to the highest level since July 2008, a sign that the housing recovery is accelerating.

U.S. new-home sales jumped in January from the previous month to the highest level since July 2008, a sign that the housing recovery is accelerating.

The Commerce Department says new-home sales rose nearly 16 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000. The percentage increase was the largest in nearly 20 years.

RELATED: Case-Shiller: December LA home prices rise 10.2 percent for year

Steady job creation and near record-low mortgage rates are spurring more Americans to buy houses. At the same time, the number of previously occupied homes for sale is at a 13-year low. That shortage creates more demand for new homes.

Still, the increases are coming from depressed levels. New-home sales plummeted to a record low in 2011. And sales are still well below the 700,000 annual level that economists consider healthy.

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