Sales of new U.S. homes in February climbed to their fastest pace in seven years, as an otherwise dormant housing market showed fresh signs of life.

The Commerce Department says new home sales shot up 7.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 539,000, the strongest performance since February 2008. January sales were revised up nearly 4 percent to a rate of 500,000.

Other parts of the housing market have struggled since 2015 got off to a frigid start. Sales of existing homes are running behind last year's weak pace, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The strong increase came from the South and, surprisingly, the Northeast, which was hammered by snowstorms last month.

The median sales price rose 2.6 percent since February 2014 to $275,500.