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Economy in Brief

Housing Starts Rebound
by Tom Moeller June 20, 2006

Housing starts rebounded 5.0% last month to 1.957M units and recovered about all of the April decline that was revised slightly shallower. The rise by far exceeded Consensus expectations for stability at 1.869M starts.

Total housing starts nevertheless remained 13.6% below the peak this past January.

Most of the surprise last month was due to a 19.7% m/m jump in multi family starts which reversed a sharp April decline. For the first five months of this year multi family starts averaged 362M units, equal to the first five months of 2005.

Single-family starts recovered just a piece of the prior months' weakness and rose 2.1% to 1.586M units after three months of decline. During the first five months of this year single family starts were 1.5% below the first five months of 2005 and in May were 12.6% below the January peak.

By region, single family housing starts were weakest in the Midwest and posted a 15.6% (-25.4% y/y) decline. In the Northeast starts also slipped by 0.7% (-1.5% y/y) but in the South single family starts rose 8.2% (1.3% y/y). Out West starts rose 4.6% (-12.1% y/y).

Building permits fell for the fourth consecutive month. The 2.1% decline lowered permits 13.8% below the peak last September and reflected a 2.1% (-12.2% y/y) drop in permits to build single family homes. Single family permits in May were down 17.5% from the peak last September.

A Supervisor's Perspective on Mortgage Markets and Mortgage Lending Practices from Federal Reserve Governor Susan Schmidt Bies is available here.

Housing Starts (000s, AR) May April Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Total 1,957 1,863 -3.8% 2,073 1,950 1,854
  Single-family 1,586 1,553 -7.6% 1,719 1,604 1,505
  Multi-family 371 310 17.0% 354 345 349
Building Permits 1,932 1,973 -8.5% 2,144 2,057 1,8 88
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