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New home sales drop by 23.6% last month in western states

But rise by 18.5% in Midwest, by 1.5% nationally in March

Sales of newly built, single-family homes fell 1.5% in March nationally.

Data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the inventory of new homes for sale rose to 246,000 in March, which is a 5.8-month supply at the current sales pace.

The median sales price of new houses sold in March was $288,000.

"Builders are slowly raising inventory as they remain cautious about the housing recovery," said Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill. and chairman of the National Association of Home Builders.

"Though sales were flat this month, they are running modestly higher on a year-over-year basis," added NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "We expect the sales pace to rise through 2016, given ongoing low mortgage interest rates and healthy job creation."

Regionally, new home sales fell 23.6% in western states, but rose 18.5% in the Midwest and 5% in the South. Sales were unchanged in the Northeast.

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