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Midwest home sales mixed

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- In the Midwest, January home sales plummeted 37 percent from December's figure, but sales were still up nearly 4 percent over the previous year, according to figures released Friday by the National Association of Realtors.

There were 54,000 sales in the 11-state region last month, and the median sales price improved more than 2 percent, to $162,700.

The Midwest sales figures were slightly weaker than the national ones. According to figures that are not seasonally adjusted, total home sales nationwide in January fell 33 percent compared with December totals, but they improved 7 percent on an annual basis. The median home price nationally gained nearly 3 percent, to $212,000.

The tax credits available to home buyers -- especially the $8,000 one for first-time buyers -- continue to drive activity across the Midwest.

"That's the only thing that has spurred the market in the last six months," said Jeff Smutek, a Realtor with Re/Max Crossroads in the Cleveland area.

Sales fell on an annual basis in 11 of the 12 major Midwestern cities.