At 552,000, the annual rate came in far above the high-end estimate. This is the highest rate since February 2008. Adding to the momentum is a 15,000 upward revision to July. Sales are up 5.7% month over month.

In especially welcome news for builders, the sales strength pulled supply relative to sales even lower, to 4.7 months from 4.9 months. Still, low supply is a constraint on sales in contrast to pricing which remains favorable, at a median $292,700 for a 0.5 percent gain on the month but at a paltry year-on-year gain of only 0.3 percent. By comparison, the year-on-year sales gain is 22 percent.

Regional data show August strength for the Northeast and more importantly the South which, for new home sales, is larger than all other regions combined. Year-on-year, sales in the South are up 28 percent which leads the regions. At the rear is the West where sales growth, however, is still in the double digits at plus 11 percent.

Volatility aside, this report is impressively strong and likely marks an upturn for housing data which, like Monday’s existing home sales report, had been showing limited and uneven strength.