New home sales in the U.S. unexpectedly showed a steep drop in the month of January, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Monday.
The report said new home sales plunged by 7.8 percent to an annual rate of 593,000 in January after slumping by 7.6 percent to an upwardly revised 643,000 in December.
The continued decrease surprised economists, who had expected new home sales to jump by 3.2 percent to a rate of 645,000 from the 625,000 originally reported for the previous month.
The unexpected drop in new home sales was partly due to a notable decline in the South, where new home sales tumbled by 14.2 percent to a rate of 301,000.
New home sales in the Northeast also plummeted by 33.3 percent to a rate of 24,000, while new home sales in the Midwest jumped by 15.4 percent to a rate of 75,000 and new home sales in the West climbed by 1.0 percent to a rate of 193,000.
The Commerce Department also said the median sales price of new houses sold in January was $323,000, down 4.1 percent from $336,700 in December but up 2.5 percent from $315,200 in the same month a year ago.
The estimate of new houses for sale at the end of January was 301,000, representing 6.1 months of supply at the current sales rate.
Last Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors released a separate report unexpectedly showing a significant decrease in existing home sales in January.
NAR said existing home sales tumbled by 3.2 percent to an annual rate of 5.38 million in January, while economists had expected existing home sales to rise to a rate of 5.60 million.