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New-home sales up, but perhaps not enough

New home sales saw their third consecutive monthly gain but the increases won't save the year from the worst on record

New-home sales rose 1.6 percent in November from October, but three consecutive months of increase is unlikely to rescue the market from its worst year on record.

The Census Bureau reported that the number of new homes for sale fell to a record low of 158,000, a six-month supply, and the number of completed homes for sale fell to 59,000, which was the lowest level since September 1971. The average price dropped to $242,900, the lowest since October 2003.

The Northeast and the West had sales declines, with slight gains in the South and Midwest.

Single-family housing permits are gaining slightly or still stuck at the bottom in all but Alaska and North Dakota.

Economist Patrick Newport said the only reason why existing-home sales aren't in the dumpster, too, is  that 'one-third of them are selling at 'distressed' prices."