WASHINGTON--New home sales posted a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000 in October, a 0.2% gain from the upwardly revised September rate of 878,000, the Commerce Department recently reported.

Bruce Smith, president of the National Association of Home Builders, cautioned that a number of factors, including mounting unemployment, lackluster consumer confidence and rising mortgage rates could dampen demand in the final quarter of 2001.

Even with the anticipated slowdown, Smith noted that home sales in 2001 should surpass last year's mark of 877,000 units and come in, "around record levels" of 888,000.

According to Smith, housing and related industries and activities are critical to the overall performance of the economy.

Regionally, October new home sales rose 15.8% in the Northeast, 1.4% in the South and 3.3% in the West. Sales declined by 11.7% in the Midwest. The month's supply of homes for sale remained constant at 4.3.