P. M. Briefing : New Home Sales Decline 14%--Steepest Plunge in 8 Years

From Times Wire Services

Sales of new homes fell 14% in September, their steepest decline in nearly eight years, as interest rates crept back to the double-digit level of the preceding months, the government reported today.

The Commerce Department said new single-family homes were sold at an annual rate of 618,000 units in September, following a 3.1% decline in August.

The September decrease was the sharpest since a 19% decline in January, 1982, during the last recession.

In July, when sales gained 14.6%, analysts cited a decline in fixed-rate mortgages to 9.81% by the end of that month from a peak of 11.22% last March.

But rates edged back up to 10.22% by the end of August and remained in that range throughout September.

Meanwhile, an index measuring the ability of the typical American family to buy an existing home rose in September to the highest level in six months, reflecting both falling home prices and relatively stable mortgage rates.

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