Sales of new single-family homes slipeed 2.3% from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 295,000 in August, the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Monday. The rate was 6.1% ahead of August 2010 and met the Wall Street estimate.

The sales estimate for July was revised upward from a rate of 298,000 to 302,000.

The median price dropped 8.6% from July and 7.7% from last August to $209,1000. The average price fell 8.7% from July and 8.4% from August 2010 to $246,000. The decreases were driven by a rise in home sales at the entry level (below $199,000) and declines in the $200,000 to $400,000 move-up market.

New home inventory was down by 1,000 homes from July at 162,000, a supply of6.6 months at the current sales rate, up from a 5.8-month supply in July and down from a 10.1-month supply in August of last year. It also was a new low for inventory since the early 1960s. Median months-for-sale fell to 8.9 from 9.5 in July and 10.1 in August, 2010.

According to unadjusted estimates, builders sold 26,000 homes in August, down from 28,000 in each of the three prior months.

Regionally, the usually volatile Northeast was volatile again, with sales down 13.6% to a pace of 19,000, 36.7% behind August of last year. Sales in the Midwest rose 8.2% to a pace of 53,000, 65.6% ahead of August, 2010. The South was off 2.4% to a pace of 164,000, 9.3% above last August. The West fell 1.2% and was 10.6% behind the pace of a year earlier.

Adam Rudiger, home-building analyst at Wells Fargo, managed to spot postive news in the data. "In the 16 months since the expiration (for orders) of the federal homebuyer tax credit in April 2010, monthly (SAAR) new home sales achieved their 16 lowest readings on record (since 1963), highlighting how depressed selling conditions for single-family new homes are. Conversely, we do believe current trends are showing levels of stability and have likely bottomed. On a positive note, inventory is at its lowest level ever. Through August, on average over the last ten years, actual non-seasonally adjusted new home sales contributed to 71% of the annual figure. Applying this historical seasonality to year-to-date results implies an 2011 annual figure of 296,000, which would represent a 8.1% decline versus 2010."