New-home sales posted a six-year high in 1994, although rising mortgage rates and a sharp inventory buildup signaled a housing slowdown this year.
While home builders were threatened with a shrinking market, major retailers reported a rebound in January from a disappointing holiday shopping season. And a government report on new claims for jobless benefits suggested the labor market remained robust last month.
Sales of new homes rose 0.6 percent to 670,000 last year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. It was the highest level since 676,000 single-family homes were sold in 1988.
Regionally, sales were up in the Northeast and West, but flat in the Midwest and down in the South.