New home sales fell again in January, although not quite as sharply as in December. Stalling sales in recent months has now dragged the annual rate below that of a year earlier.

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development said sales of newly constructed single-family homes dropped by another 7.8 percent on top of a 9.3 percent decline in December. Sales were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 593,000 units compared to the upwardly revised (from 625,000) December estimate of 643,000 units.  The rate is 1.0 percent lower than sales in January 2017. The rate of sales in January is the lowest since an estimate of 559,000 last August.

Analysts polled by Econoday had predicted sales were come in between 600,000 and 700,000. The consensus was 600,000 units.

On a non-adjusted basis there were an estimated 44,000 new homes sold during the month compared to 45,000 in both December and in January 2017.

The median sales price of homes sold during the month was $323,000 compared to 315,200 a year earlier. The average sales price was $282,700, up from 357,700 in January 2017.

The Northeast posted the most severe pullback in sales, with a decline of 33.3 percent from December and 44.2 percent on an annual basis.  Sales in the South were also down, by 14.2 percent and 10.9 percent for the two prior periods.

Sales in both the Midwest and the West somewhat offset losses in the other two regions. In the Midwest there was a month-over-month gain of 15.4 percent and sales were up 2.7 percent on an annual basis.  The West managed a 1.0 percent gain from December, but sales jumped by 33.1 percent compared to the previous January.

There was a slight increase in inventory, from 294,000 units for sale at the end of December to 301,000 at the end of the current period.  That brought the estimated inventory up into what is considered a balanced market, at a 6.1-month supply. The supply was estimated at 5.5 months in December. Of the available homes, only 64,000 are ready for occupancy.  Completed homes have a marketing time of 3.3 months, unchanged from December.