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US Housing Starts Pull Back Much More Than Expected In April

16 May 2018

USA new-home construction declined in April as fewer starts of apartment projects outweighed a modest improvement in single-family structures, government figures showed Wednesday.

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Wednesday morning that new housing starts in April rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.287 million, a decrease of 3.7% from the upwardly revised March rate of 1.336 million and an increase of 10.5% compared with the April 2017 rate of 1.165 million.

Economists had expected housing starts to drop to an annual rate of 1.310 million from the 1.319 million originally reported for the previous month.

Single-family starts on an annualized basis have run at least 200,000 units below what is needed to meet housing demand, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and other analysts have said.

Building permits, an indicator of future construction, fell 1.8 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted 1.35 million.

Economists had forecast housing starts falling to a pace of 1.310 million units last month and permits declining to a 1.350 million-unit rate.

Last month's gain in single-family starts was outpaced by an 11.3 percent decline in groundbreaking activity on multi-family housing units.

US financial markets were little moved by the data. Residential construction has been hamstrung by rising prices for building materials and shortages of land and skilled workers. Permits for multi-family units fell 6.3 percent to a 493,000 unit-pace. Multifamily starts clocked in at 374,000 units, down 13 percent over a strong March level. Year-over-year, single-family starts were up 7 percent.