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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Decline Unexpectedly
by Tom Moeller  May 17, 2011

There's still no forward momentum behind housing sector activity. Housing starts fell 10.6% to 523,000 units last month after a revised 12.9% March gain to 585,000, initially reported as 549,000. The latest figure was the lowest in exactly two years and compared to Consensus expectations for 570,000 starts.

Weakness in building was most significant in the single-family area where starts fell 5.1% to the lowest level since April 2009. More pronounced was the 24.1% drop (+6.6% y/y) in multi-family starts but these still were more-than double the October 2009 low. Starts of 2-to-4 units building jumped by more than one-third m/m (15.4% y/y) but starts of larger buildings with 5 or more units fell by more than one-quarter (+5.6% y/y).

Building permits also fell a sharp 4.0% (12.8% y/y). Single-family permits fell 1.8% (-18.6% y/y) while multi-family permits were off 8.8% (+4.4% y/y).

The housing starts figures can be found in Haver's USECON database. The expectations figure is contained in the AS1REPNA database.

Housing Starts (000s, SAAR) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total 523 585 518 -23.9% 585 554 900
 Single-Family 394 415 388 -30.4 471 442 616
 Multi-Family 129 170 130 6.6 114 112 284
Starts By Region
 Northeast 60 63 55 -29.4 72 61 120
 Midwest 96 83 63 -19.3 98 95 134
 South 255 331 310 -31.8 296 281 451
 West 112 108 90 2.8 120 117 195
Building Permits 551 574 534 -12.8 603 582 896
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