From LA Times.com:
An unexpected drop in new home sales for the month of January, plus a plunge in mortgage applications to the lowest level in nearly 13 years, have renewed fears of another decline in housing prices.
Economists said the 11.2% tumble from December in new home sales -- the third consecutive monthly drop announced by the Commerce Department -- indicates that Congress' extension of a home buyer's tax credit late last year appears to be having little or no effect on consumer sentiment.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected January new home sales to climb.
New home sales make up a much smaller share of the buying activity than sales of previously occupied homes. But the data are carefully watched by economists because construction can give a boost to an economy heading out of recession.
Analysts said the January numbers indicated that residential builders were probably in for a tough year as they continue to compete with steeply discounted bank-owned properties and consumers face depleted household incomes and heavy debt loads.