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Economy in Brief

Housing Starts Fell To Lowest Level Since March
by Tom Moeller January 19, 2006

Housing starts slumped 8.0% m/m last month to 1.933M units following a little revised 3.4% increase in November. The decline was to the lowest level since March but did not prevent starts for all of 2005 from rising 6.0% to a record 2.066M. Consensus expectations had been for a lesser decline in December to 2.05M starts.

Single-family starts plummeted 12.3% m/m to 1.577M from the near record November level. The gain was most pronounced in the West where starts fell 21.7% (-17.1% y/y) and in the Midwest where single family starts dropped 22.6% (-23.8% y/y). In the Northeast single family starts fell for the fifth month in the last six, down 4.5% (-9.3% y/y) and in the South starts fell 4.2% (+4.3% y/y).

Multi family starts rose 10.2% m/m following a downwardly revised gain during November. Building permits fell 4.4% to the lowest level since May.

The latest Beige Book covering regional economic conditions in the US from the Federal Reserve Board can be found here.

Housing Starts (000s, AR) Dec Nov Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Total 1,933 2,121 -5.7% 2,066 1,950 1,854
  Single-family 1,577 1,798 -7.9% 1,713 1,604 1,505
  Multi-family 356 323 5.6% 353 345 349
Building Permits 2,068 2,163 -0.6% 2,121 2,058 1,8 88
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