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A "for sale" sign is seen outside a home in New York in this June 19, 2012 file photo.

SHANNON STAPLETON/Reuters

U.S. home resales fell in June but the median sales price was higher than a year earlier as fewer people sold their homes under distressed conditions, giving mixed signals for the country's nascent housing market recovery.

The National Association of Realtors said on Thursday that existing home sales slipped 5.4 per cent to an annual rate of 4.37 million units last month. That was the slowest pace in eight months and well below analysts' expectations of a 4.63 million-unit rate.

Nationwide, the median price for a home resale rose to $189,400 (U.S.) in June, up 7.9 per cent from a year earlier.

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The nation's inventory of homes – those for sale on the market – fell 3.2 per cent during the month, which NAR economist Lawrence Yun said contributed to the rise in the prices.

"The price improvement also results from fewer distressed sales in the sales mix," he said.

The price increase is measured against June of 2011, and since then distressed sales have fallen to 25 per cent of total sales from 30 per cent. That rate held steady in June of this year compared to the prior month.

While the broader U.S. economy appears to be losing steam, housing has gained traction and has become a relative bright spot. The pace of hiring slowed sharply in the second quarter, but home prices appear to be stabilizing and groundbreaking on new homes rose in June to the fastest pace in over three years.

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