WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2002 (Inman News Features) - New home sales plunged 14.8 percent in January, declining at the fastest pace since 1994, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 823,000 came as surprise, especially in the wake of upward adjustments to the Census Bureau?s November and December figures.

Builders and economists had been expecting the new level to be approximately 950,000 units; however, they noted early January traditionally is a slower period for home sales.

"We're seeing things slow down from what had been an extraordinary sales pace at the end of last year," said Gary Garczynski, president of the National Association of Home Builders and a builder/developer from Woodbridge, Va. "Even so, there is no indication of fundamental weakness in the market, and higher numbers in February could substantially offset this latest decline."

Meanwhile Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was telling Congress that signs were surfacing that could end the present recession. Housing activity had been one of the few bright lights of the slumping economy.

Copyright 2002 Inman News Features