New figures show that sales of new homes across the US fell 4.7% during December as a persistent  housing slump showed no signs of abating.

The Commerce Department said that last month's new-home sales declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 604,000 units. November's sales figure was revised sharply lower to 634,000 properties compared with an initial estimate of 647,000.

Most economists had expected December sales to dip to around 645,000 homes. New home sales have plummeted by more than 40% compared with  December 2006, underlining the depth of the property slowdown sweeping the country.