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US Home Sales Rise, Prices Hit Record High

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Sales of new U.S. homes jumped higher in April, while prices hit a record high.

The Commerce Department says sales of newly-built homes rose more than 2 percent from the prior month, and were 29 percent above the same month a year ago. The median price of a new home was a record $271,600.

Experts say ultra-low interest rates and a gradually improving job market helped sales. If they continued for a full year at April's pace, 454,000 new houses would be sold. While that is an improvement, it is still below the level many experts say would indicate a healthy housing market.

Sales of existing, or used, homes in April reached their fastest pace in almost three and a half years.

Earlier Thursday, a government report said the number of people signing up for unemployment assistance dropped by 23,000 last week across the United States to a nationwide total 340,000.

The U.S. central bank chief says the job market is still weak. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told members of Congress Wednesday that the bank will continue its programs to stimulate the economy, at least for a while.

The most recent data shows the U.S. unemployment rate at 7.5 percent, which is the lowest in four years, but higher than usual for the United States.

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