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Economy in Brief

Housing Starts Decline Mostly Reflected Multi-Family 
by Tom Moeller March 16, 2006

Housing starts during February reversed roughly half of the prior month's upwardly revised rise and fell 7.9% m/m to 2.120M units. More normal Winter temperatures returned last month after the record warmth of January. Consensus expectations had been for a sharper decline to 2.03M starts.

The reason for the relatively moderate decline last month was that single-family starts fell just 2.3% to 1.800M from the record high in January. The two month average of 1.822M starts was still a record height.

A 30.4% m/m decline in multi family starts more than reversed the January surge.

Building permits also fell moderately reversing about half of February's unrevised gain with a 3.2% decline. Single family permits, however, fell hard. A 3.0% (+0.9% y/y) decline dropped single family permits to the lowest level since last May.

Single family housing starts in the Northeast fell 20.1% (-12.9% y/y) and in the Midwest starts dropped 9.2% (-15.9% y/y). Single family starts in the South fell 3.6% (+6.0% y/y) but out West starts recovered 13.3% (3.8% y/y).

Housing Starts (000s, AR) Feb Jan Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Total 2,120 2,303 -4.8% 2,072 1,950 1,854
  Single-family 1,800 1,843 -0.4% 1,716 1,604 1,505
  Multi-family 320 460 -23.8% 355 345 349
Building Permits 2,145 2,216 2.5% 2,122 2,058 1,8 88
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