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) -- Sales of newly built homes jumped 11.1% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000, the Commerce Department said early Monday, a bigger jump than expected.

The figure was expected to come in at a rate of 280,000, according to consensus estimates at

, after

sales of newly built homes plunged in February to a revised rate of 270,000, one of the worst rates on record since 1962.

>> 10 Top Buy-Rated Real Estate Stocks for 2011

March's new-home sales figure remained 21.9% below year-earlier levels.

The median sale price of new homes sold last month was $213,800; the average sales price was $246,800.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, there were 183,000 new homes for sale at the end of March, representing a 7.3-month supply at the current sales rate.

Data released last week showed that

existing-home sales rose 3.7% in March to a slightly better-than-expected seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors.

March's rate of home resales remained 6.3% below year-earlier levels, and 24.8% below the cyclical peak of 6.49 million units in Nov. 2009, which was the first month following the initial deadline for the

first-time homebuyer tax credit.

>> Housing Market to Recover in 2013: Analyst1


SPDR S&P Homebuilders


, an exchange-traded fund that tracks the homebuilder sector, remains around 60% off its peak of $46.08 in early 2006. The

iShares Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction


ETF remains more than 70% off its peak of $50.10 in the spring of 2006.

Stocks in the homebuilder sector were mixed Monday morning.

Among individual builders,

D.R. Horton


gained 0.5%,

Toll Brothers


declined 0.4% and



lost 0.1%.



, recently added to

Goldman Sachs'


conviction buy list, shed 0.5%.

Small-cap builder

KB Home


was lower by 0.4%.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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Miriam Reimer


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