SALES OF newly constructed homes rose 4.4 percent in November from the month before, providing fresh evidence that the country's housing sector is in recovery.

Newly built single-family homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 377,000 units in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. That was a 15.3 percent increase from November 2011.

The increase indicates a continuation of the housing recovery that began earlier this year. Housing has become a leading source of strength for the long-sluggish American economic recovery as more people compete to buy fewer homes - pushing up prices.

Low inventory has helped make housing competitive this year. The estimated number of new homes available for sale at the end of November was 149,000, a supply that would last less than five months at the current sales rate, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Record-low mortgage rates have helped lure buyers this year. And cash-rich investors have poured into the market, looking to turn a profit on residential real estate. At the same time, the number of foreclosures has declined, tightening the supply of cheap homes.

- Los Angeles Times