Sales of new U.S. homes surged to a nearly nine-year high in July. Tuesday's report from the Commerce Department says sales were up more than 12 percent from the previous month, and jumped more than 31 percent from the same time a year ago. If new home sales continued at July's pace for a full year, buyers would get more than 650,000 homes. The sales data was stronger than most economists had predicted. Experts say low borrowing costs and employment gains are helping sales. These new, never-occupied, homes make up about one-tenth of the overall housing market. New home sales are considered a timely measure of market conditions. Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors, a business group, is scheduled to publish data on sales of previously-occupied homes.