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New-home sales up 5.7 percent in December

WASHINGTON -- Spurred by low mortgage rates, Americans pushed sales of new homes up by 5.7 percent in December. That helped to make 2001 the best year on record for home sales, even as the country suffered through a recession.

A record 900,000 new single-family homes were sold last year, surpassing the record of 886,000 set in 1998, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

The National Association of Realtors reported Friday that 5.25 million existing homes were sold in 2001, an all-time high.

The country slid into recession in March and was dealt another blow by the Sept. 11 terror attacks. But the housing market, one of the economy's few bright spots, managed to hold up so well because of low mortgage rates, analysts say.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in 2001 was 6.97 percent, the lowest annual average rate since 1998.

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