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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Weaker Than Expected
by Tom Moeller April 16, 2008

During March, housing starts were weaker than expected, falling 11.9% m/m to 947,000 units. A decline to 1.010M had been generally expected. The latest level was the lowest since early 1991.

Accentuating the total's m/m decline was a 24.6% drop in starts of multi-family units which more than reversed February's 11.7% rise.

Single family starts last month fell by about the same 5.7% as they did in February. That month's decline was revised slightly shallower. Single family starts in March also were at their lowest level since early 1991 and they have fallen 63.0% since their early 2006 peak. For 1Q08, starts fell 12.6% from 4Q07.

By region, in the Midwest single family starts fell to a record low and were down 25.0% y/y. Single family starts in the Northeast were roughly unchanged m/m but were down 30.4% y/y. In the South, single family starts also were about unchanged (-40.9% y/y) and in the West single family starts fell 11.8%. (-48.3% y/y). That decline reversed much of the surge in February and they remained down 70% from the August 2005 peak.

Building permits fell 5.8% m/m and single-family permits fell 6.2% (-46.4% 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) March February Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Total 947 1,075 -36.5% 1,344 1,812 2,073
  Single-Family 680 721 -43.6% 1,039 1,474 1,719
  Multi-Family 267 354 -6.6% 304 338 354
Building Permits 927 984 -40.9% 1,371 1,842 2,159
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