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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

New home sales fell 18.2% in February to the lowest in nine months, but prices streaked to their highest level ever. The average new American home now costs $349,400, as the median new home prices rose 5.3% from a year ago.

Why it matters: It's the latest piece of data showing the housing market continues to struggle in 2021, slowing its torrid pace from 2020.

Yes, but: Economists cite unseasonably cold weather in February as an explanation for the weak data and they have a point.

  • The average contiguous U.S. temperature during February was 30.6 degrees, 3.2 degrees below the 20th-century average. This ranked as the 19th coldest February in the 127-year period of record, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
  • February 2021 was the coldest February in the U.S. in more than 30 years, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.

What's happening: "Rising mortgage rates will likely soften homebuyer demand modestly, while homebuilder constraints, including the ongoing high prices of lumber and other materials, will likely dampen the supply of new homes," Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae, told Reuters.

  • "However, underlying demand remains strong. The extremely tight supply of existing homes for sale may encourage more homebuyers to turn to new home purchases."

Go deeper

Report: Climate change is an "emerging threat" to U.S. economic stability

A firefighter watches an airplane drop fire retardant ahead of the Alisal fire near Goleta on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Photo: Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A top U.S. financial coordinating organization took several steps on Thursday to manage the growing risks that climate change poses to the U.S. financial system.

Why it matters: While the Biden administration has been taking an all-of-government approach to climate change, like factoring climate risk into planning at the Treasury Department, today's moves by the politically independent Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) carry significant weight.

49 mins ago - World

"I assume full responsibility," Duterte says of drug war

Rodrigo Duterte in 2017. Photo: Linus Escandor II/AFP via Getty Images

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that he assumes full responsibility for a violent war on drugs that has killed thousands of people, Reuters reported.

Why it matters: Last month the International Criminal Court (ICC) formally authorized an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity during Duterte's war on drugs.

CDC approves boosters for Moderna and J&J and mix-and-match

Boxes containing vials of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's independent advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine and allow people to mix-and-match doses.

The big picture: The agency aligns with the Food and Drug Administration authorization Wednesday night which said people could switch to whichever vaccine they wanted for their booster shot.