After five consecutive months of increases, sales of newly built, single-family homes fell 3.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 402,000 units in September, according to data released by the U.S. Commerce Department.The inventory of new homes on the market continued downward for a 29th consecutive month, to 251,000 units in September. This is the lowest inventory since November 1982. However, the slower pace of sales kept the month’s supply unchanged, at 7.5.

Meanwhile, nationwide housing production remained virtually unchanged in September, edging up half of a percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 units, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures. Though issuance of new building permits, an indicator of future construction activity, fell by 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted 573,000 units.

“Builders are being extremely cautious right now in their efforts to maintain a modest inventory of new homes for sale,” said Joe Robson, a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. and chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Overall housing starts posted a 0.5 percent gain to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 units in September, returning to a production rate last seen in June. Starts of new single-family homes made up some of the ground lost in previous months with a nearly 4 percent gain, to a 501,000-unit rate, while multifamily starts fell 15.2 percent to 89,000 units.

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