Sales of new homes hit a record pace in May. A recent Commerce Department shows that new, single-family homes rose 12.5 percent to a record 1.157 million annual rate. Wall Street analysts had expected sales to rise to a more modest 1.034 million rate.

May's hefty gain followed a revised 1 percent gain in April to a 1.028 million annual pace.

The May percentage gain was the largest since September 1993 and left the inventory of new homes on the market at only 3.5 months worth, the lowest in more than four years.

The previous record pace for new home sales was seen in September 2002, when they hit a 1.057 million rate.

By region, May sales were the strongest in the the South and the West, which both posted record rates. The South saw a 554,000 annual sales rate, while the West saw sales at a 347,000 yearly pace.

Sales in the Northeast fell slightly, to a 71,000 annual rate, while new home purchases in the Midwest gained slightly, to a 185,000 pace.