By John S. McClenahen Sales of new single-family homes rose 3.5% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.206 million, the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly reported on Oct. 27. The revised August sales rate was 1.165 million. The median sales price of homes sold in September was $197,700 and the average sales price was $255,100. Also in September, new factory orders for big-ticket, long-lasting manufactured goods edged up by 0.2% to $195.7 billion, the Commerce Department reported. Overall new orders for autos, airplanes, appliances and other manufactured durables had fallen 0.6% in August. In fact, September's performance was mixed, with, for example, communications equipment posting a 35.6% month-to-month increase in new orders and nondefense aircraft and parts recording a 16.3% decline. Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, was less generous in its assessment, stating that "the expansion in the manufacturing sector slowed in September." The durable goods new orders increase was less than half the figure the market was expecting, and August's revised decline in new orders is twice what was first reported, noted David A Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill.