WASHINGTON -- Sales of new single-family homes fell 3.9% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 848,000, the lowest level since August of 2000, according to figures released Mar. 26 by the U.S. Commerce Department. The February fall-off followed downward revisions to the sales rates for the three previous months.

Three out of four regions posted declines in new-home sales in February. Sales were down 26.8% in the Northeast, 20% in the Midwest and 7% in the South. Seiders noted that the 24.6% gain in the West is largely attributable to an unusually low reading in January.

“Lending standards apparently are tightening not only in the subprime market but in other components of mortgage lending as well, and this is creating tremendous uncertainties regarding the near-term outlook for home sales and housing production,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chief Economist David Seiders. “The Federal Reserve's recent statement that there is an ongoing adjustment in the housing sector appears right on target.”

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