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New-home sales fall, 2011 could be worst year yet

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people who bought new homes fell for the third straight month in July, putting sales on track to finish this year as the worst on records dating back half a century.

Sales of new homes fell nearly 1 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 298,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That's less than half the 700,000 that economists say represent a healthy market.

Housing remains the weakest part of the economy. Last year was the worst for new-home sales on records that go back nearly 50 years.

While new homes represent less than one-fifth of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs and $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Analysts said the report was further proof that the housing market is stuck in the doldrums.

"How much longer can we flat-line on housing?" said M. Cary Leahey, senior economist at Decision Economics.

All types of home sales remain weak. Sales of previously occupied homes fell in July for the third time in four months, and they are trailing last year's 4.91 million sales, the fewest since 1997. In a healthy economy, people buy roughly 6 million existing homes annually.


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