SHARECOMMENTMORE

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. sales of new homes rebounded in January to the fastest pace in more than five years, offering hopes that housing could be regaining momentum after a slowdown last year caused by rising interest rates.

The Commerce Department says sales of new homes increased 9.6 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000. That was the fastest pace since July 2008.

It came as a surprise to economists who had been forecasting a sales drop in January, in part because of a belief that activity would be held back by bad winter storms in many parts of the country.

Sales had fallen 3.8 percent in December and 1.8 percent in November, leading to worries that the housing recovery could be losing momentum.

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