New home sales a better-than-expected 356,000
* New home sales declined 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 356,000 from 358,000 in February. These numbers were better than expected -- the market was looking for sales of 337,000. Figures for December, January and February were also revised higher by a net 31,000 units.
* The raw number of homes for sale continued to decline, falling to 311,000 from 328,000 in February. The months supply at current sales pace indicator of inventory declined to 10.7 from 11.2.
* The median price of a new home dropped 3.5% to $201,400 from $208,700 in February. That was also a decline of 12.2% from $229,300 in the year-earlier period. New home prices are now at the lowest level since December 2003 ($196,000).
Lower home prices are starting to bring out buyers. That's the story here in a nutshell. We've seen new home sales activity stabilize for a few months, even as prices have slumped to the lowest level in more than five years. Rising unemployment is still a problem, and a big enough one to ensure that any housing rebound remains muted. But all signs point to a stabilization in market conditions, something I haven't been able to say for a long time.