Sales of new homes in the United States fell 1 percent last month to an annualized rate of 312,000 units, the lowest level in three months, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

The comparable figure for May was 315,000 units and most analysts expected the rate for June to come in at around 325,000.

The median price for a new home climbed in June to $235,000, a gain of 5.8 percent from the previous month and 7.2 percent compared with June 2010.

The number of new homes for sale last month fell to a record low of 164,000, the Commerce Department said.

Separately, Standard & Poor's released data showing that home prices increased 1 percent in May in the 20 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Though it was the second consecutive increase in the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, cautioned against reading too much into the figures.

"This is a seasonal period of stronger demand for houses, so monthly price increases are to be expected and were seen in 16 of the 20 cities," he said.

"However, 19 of 20 cities saw prices drop over the last 12 months. The concern is that much of the monthly gains are only seasonal," Blitzer said.

He went on to note that home prices in the 20 major metro areas fell 4.5 percent between May 2010 and the same month this year and are now at levels last seen in Summer 2003, before the real estate bubble.

Prices for homes in the 20 metro areas are down 32 percent from their peak in Summer 2006, according to S&P/Case-Shiller.

"We have now seen two consecutive months of generally improving prices; however, we might have a long way to go before we see a real recovery," Blitzer said.