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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Nudge Higher To Five-Month High; Permits Weaken
by Tom Moeller   October 19, 2010

There's certainly no strength in the housing sector, but the latest several months' data at least show stability. Housing starts last month ticked up 0.3% to 610,000 (AR) from an upwardly revised August level. The latest was the highest since April and was 27.9% above the recession low. Nevertheless, starts still were down roughly three-quarters from the peak in early-2006. The latest figure was higher than Consensus expectations for 583,000 starts.

Last month's gain was due to a 4.4% increase in starts of single-family homes to 452,000. Starts of multi-unit units fell 9.7% but they nevertheless were double the year ago level. Starts of 2-to-4 unit structures slipped 12.5% y/y but starts with more than five units more- than-doubled. Higher starts in the South and in the Northeast led last month's increase but starts fell elsewhere. In just the single-family area, starts in the Northeast rose by two-thirds to the highest level since late-2008. Single-family starts elsewhere in the country continued to trend sideways.

Working the other way, building permits fell 5.6% m/m to the lowest level since April of last year. The decline was led by lower multi-family authorizations to the lowest level since April of this year. Single-family permits ticked up 0.5% (-14.4% y/y) following five consecutive months of decline.

The housing starts figures can be found in Haver's USECON database.

Housing Starts (000s, SAAR) September August July September
Y/Y %
2009 2008 2007
Total 610 608 550 4.1 554 900 1,342
 Single-Family 452 433 427 -10.8 442 616 1,036
 Multi-Family 158 175 123 100.0 112 284 306
Starts By Region
 Northeast 72 70 75 7.5 61 120 143
 Midwest 101 110 92 -3.8 95 134 206
 South 305 291 275 2.7 281 451 676
 West 132 137 108 12.8 117 195 317
Building Permits 539 571 559 10.9 583 896 1,392
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