The pace of new-home sales fell an estimated 12.6 percent from December to January, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 284,000, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.That's an estimated 18.6 percent drop from the same time a year ago, and not far from a low of 280,000 seen in October. Last year, new-home sales peaked in April, hitting an annual rate of 414,000 sales before plummeting 32 percent the following month when federal homebuyer tax credits expired.Since then, the annual pace of sales has exceeded 300,000 in only three months -- June, September and December. During the boom, new-home sales topped 1 million per year from 2003 through 2006, and have declined each year since to a low of 322,000 last year. In past recessions, jobs created by new home construction have helped drive economic recovery. During the latest downturn, builders in many markets face competition from an abundant supply of existing homes, including homes in foreclosure and bank-owned...
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