New home sales spiked in January to the highest level since 2008, the federal government reported Wednesday.

The 468,000 new single-family home sales in January was a nearly 10 percent increase over December's relatively weak reading, and better than last year's comparable number.

The last time there were more than 450,000 new home sales in a month was in July 2008, according to the Census Bureau.

Nevertheless, sales remain well below pre-crisis highs and normally healthy levels. New home sales peaked near 1.4 million in 2005, during the height of the housing bubble.

Wednesday's news from the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development add to Tuesday's news that housing prices showed strong, although slowing, growth through the end of 2013.

One caveat about the good news regarding new home sales is that the government's estimate is subject to a large margin of error.