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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Buoyed Again By Multi-Family
by Tom Moeller March 18, 2008

Housing starts during February were firmer than expected and fell just 0.6% to 1.065M units. A m/m decline to 0.96M had been the Consensus expectation. In addition, starts in January were revised higher to 1.065M from 1.012M reported last month.

As occurred last month, however, all of the strength relative to expectations (and most of the revision) was due to the multi-family sector. Starts of condos & coops during February rose 14.4% and January starts were revised higher by nearly one half million units.

Single family starts last month fell 6.7% m/m to .707M after a 3.1% January decline. That decline was revised to show less of a decline. Single family starts in February were at their lowest level since January 1991 and since the peak in early 2006, starts of single family homes were down 61.5%.

By region, single family starts in the Northeast gave back all of the January increase with a 42.3% decline (-28.9% y/y). In the Midwest single family starts fell to the lowest level since (this is not a typo) early 1985 and were down 25.0% y/y. In the South, single family starts fell 7.0% (-42.5% y/y) and out West single family starts rose by nearly one-third m/m but still were down by nearly one-half from February 2007.

Building permits continued the slide from a 2005 peak with a 7.8% m/m drop. Single-family permits fell 6.2% (-41.9% y/y).

Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York can be found here.

Housing Starts (000s, AR) February January Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Total 1,065 1,071 -28.4% 1,344 1,812 2,073
  Single-Family 707 758 -40.5% 1,039 1,474 1,719
  Multi-Family 358 313 19.7% 304 338 354
Building Permits 978 1,061 -36.5% 1,371 1,842 2,159
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