ECONOMY

US new home sales rise despite higher mortgage rates

Americans shrugged off higher mortgage rates and snapped up new homes in February at the fastest pace since July.

The Commerce Department says new home sales rose 6.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000. That is nearly 13 percent higher than a year ago.

Builders have ramped up the construction of new homes, which helps meet strong demand and boosts sales. That could provide a crucial lift to the overall housing market: The supply of existing homes for sale has dwindled, preventing many potential buyers from purchasing homes.

There were 266,000 new homes for sale last month, the most since July 2009 — a month after the recession ended — and up nearly 10 percent from a year earlier.