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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Tick Up But Trend Still Flat
by Tom Moeller  December 16, 2010

Activity in the housing sector has stabilized at a low level. That's the continuing message from the Commerce Department's housing starts data. Starts rose 3.9% last month to 555,000 (AR) units from 534,000 during October, initially reported as 519,000. Having reversed a modest up turn this Spring, starts remained just above the low of the last recession; down more than three-quarters from the peak in early-2006. The latest figure beat Consensus expectations for 550,000 starts.

The November upturn reflected a 6.9% increase in starts of single-family homes to 465,000 from a downwardly revised October level. Starts of multi-unit units fell 9.1% to 90,000 from an upwardly revised October. Starts of 2-to-4 unit structures, which are few in number, rose by two-thirds m/m and have doubled y/y. Starts with more than five units fell 18.2% to the lowest since February (-5.3% y/y). Starts in the Midwest were strongest last month posting a 15.8% rebound from October while starts elsewhere either rose or fell modestly.

Working the other way, building permits fell 4.0% during November to near the recession low. Permits for single-family units were firmer, up 3.0% m/m and by nearly one-quarter from the recession low, but multi-family permits conversely fell nearly one-quarter to just above the low.

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

Mortgage-Backed Securities: How Important Is "Skin in the Game"? from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco can be found here.

Housing Starts (000s,SAAR) Nov. Oct. Sept. Nov Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Total 555 534 601 -5.8% 554 900 1,342
 Single-Family 465 435 447 -7.7 442 616 1,036
 Multi-Family 90 99 154 5.9 112 284 306
Starts By Region
 Northeast 79 81 69 19.7 61 120 143
 Midwest 110 95 97 2.8 95 134 206
 South 269 263 301 -11.2 281 451 676
 West 97 95 134 -14.2 117 195 317
Building Permits 530 552 547 -14.7 583 896 1,392
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