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US new-home sales rise to highest in 2½ years

WASHINGTON — U.S. sales of new homes jumped last month to the highest level in more than two years, further evidence of a sustained housing recovery that could help lift the lackluster economy.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new home sales rose 5.7 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted 389,000. That’s up from 368,000 in August and the highest level since April 2010, when a federal homebuyer tax credit inflated sales.

Sales have risen 27.1 percent in the past year. That’s the strongest yearly gain since February, although sales are still well below healthy levels.

The figures do suggest that the housing recovery is strengthening. The increase follows other reports that show home prices are rising more consistently, builders are starting to build more homes and sales of previously occupied homes have increased in the past year. Faster construction could help boost economic growth and hiring. And it could also encourage more people to put their homes on the market.