U.S. new home sales fell one per cent in June, to an annual rate of 312,000, the Commerce Department says.

The department's report Tuesday provided more evidence that the American housing market remains weak, with annual sales at less than 50 per cent of the 700,000 figure economists say is typical in healthy markets.

Last year was the worst for new home sales on records dating back half a century and this year could be worse, given that sales are lagging behind last year's totals.

The median price of a new home rose to $235,200 US because of the influx of spring buyers. The median price is not adjusted for seasonal factors.

A separate report — the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index — showed home prices in major U.S. cities rose for the second straight month in May. But after adjusting for seasonal buyers, prices fell in a majority of markets.

Case-Shiller shows prices up

The index suggested prices were up in 16 of the 20 cities tracked. Over the last 12 months, prices have fallen in 19 of the 20 cities tracked.

High unemployment, larger downpayment requirements, a glut of existing homes and tougher lending standards continue to make housing the weakest part of the U.S. economy.

Alistair Bentley, a TD Bank economist, said U.S. home prices could fall more.

"Weakness in the job market has tempered housing demand," he said in a commentary, "and pushed sales lower in recent months.  If sustained, this could weigh on prices."

Last year was the fifth straight year that new-home sales fell. That followed five straight years of record-high sales, when the housing market was booming.

With files from The Associated Press