New-home sales dipped slightly in January following a high 2003 fourth quarter but remained well above last year's record-setting pace, the Commerce Department reported. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of new single-family homes sales was 1.106 million, down 1.7 percent from December's upwardly-revised rate of 1.125 million but 9.6 percent above the January 2003 rate of 1.009 million units.

"Some cooling from the world-class pace of the fourth quarter was expected but sales are still well above the overall pace of 2003," said NAHB Chief Economist Dave Seiders. "We are projecting a 3 percent decline in new home sales for the year as a whole based primarily on anticipated upward movements in mortgage rates as the year progresses. However, if interest rates remain at or near current levels throughout the year, new home sales could equal or even surpass the 2003 record."

Three regions registered sales declines for the month. The Northeast, South and West posted 5.0 percent, 2.1 percent and 3.9 percent declines, respectively. The Midwest registered a 5.6 percent increase over the month before.