The Commerce Department reported that sales of new single-family homes topped one million units in 2003, establishing a new record high for the third consecutive year.

Total new single-family home sales for 2003 reached 1.085 million, up 11.5 percent from the previous annual record of 973,000 in 2002. For December alone, new home sales hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.06 million units, down 5.5 percent from November's upwardly-revised pace of 1.117 million units.

Three regions recorded record-high sales for 2003. The Midwest had 189,000 sales, the South posted 512,000 sales and the West registered 306,000 sales. Sales in the Northeast topped 79,000, not a new record, but up 21.5 percent from 2002. For the month, the sales pace across all regions was mixed. The Northeast and Midwest posted 12.2 percent and 8.7 percent gains over the November rate, respectively. The South and West showed 8.1 percent and 11.2 percent declines, respectively.

The inventory of new homes for sale was 374,000 at the end of 2003, a 4.3 months' supply at the December sales pace.