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New-Home Sales Falll; Homebuilders Shrug

New-home sales drop by a surprisingly large margin in November, sending mixed signals about a housing-market recovery.

WASHINGTON (

TheStreet

) -- Sales of new one-family houses dropped 11.3% in November to an annual rate of 355,000, down from 400,000 in October, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Wednesday.

The November sales figure, the lowest since April, fell short of the 440,000 that analysts were expecting.

What a difference a day makes in the home sales outlook.

On Tuesday, shares in the homebuilder sector, including

KB Home

(KBH) - Get Report

, rallied when the National Association of Realtors released monthly existing home sales data that

showed a third-consecutive month of improved conditions.

The public homebuilders had their second-consecutive strong day, even with the weak new homes sales report. KB Home, which was the biggest gainer on Tuesday, rose another 1.8% on Wednesday.

Standard Pacific Corp.

(SPF)

, which has a concentration in the rebounding California market, like KB Home, was up more than 4% on Wednesday.

M/I Homes

(MHO) - Get Report

was up close to 3%, while

Pulte Homes

TheStreet Recommends

(PHM) - Get Report

shares were all up approximately 2%.

Meritage Homes

(MTH) - Get Report

, on the strength of a buy rating from Citigroup, was up more than 6.6% on Wednesday for the sector's biggest gain.

The first-time home buyer tax credit that was expected to expire in October -- before being extended -- pushed October home-sales data to high levels. Existing home sales increased 7.4% in November, but that still trailed the 10% spike in October when the tax-credit expiration was looming.

The new-homes sales drop of 11% was likely influenced by the October rush to buy homes. Still, sales of new one-family houses in November were 9% below the November 2008 level of 390,000.

The median sale price of $217,400 was down nearly 2% from $221,600 a year earlier, but up about 4% from October's level of $209,400.

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>>Homebuilder Stocks to Watch in 2010

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