US housing starts fell in March; still stronger than in 2016

Constructions workers are seen at a new building site in Silver Spring Maryland

Constructions workers are seen at a new building site in Silver Spring Maryland

Yet sales listings of existing homes dropped 6.4 percent over the past year to 1.75 million properties in February, a figure only slightly higher than in January when listings were at an all-time low.

Construction in February had been supported by warmer-than-usual weather, and so the cool down in March was expected to affect homebuilding. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 374,000, down 4.6% sequentially but 15.4% ahead of a year earlier.

Housing starts fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.215 million in March, 6.8% below the revised February rate of 1.303 million, but 9.2% above the March 2016 rate.

The drop in housing starts had a margin of error of 12.5 percentage points, and the increase in permits had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, according to the Journal.

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The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) reports that this is much in line with Monday's NAHB/ Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

During the first three months of this year, construction of buildings with at least five units - mainly apartment complexes - has climbed 14.1 percent. Compared to the first three months of past year, construction is up 13.5% in the South, on strength in both single-family and multifamily units.

Residential starts decreased 6.8% to a 1.22 million annualized rate from a 1.30 million rate in February.

The seasonally adjusted rate of new building permits rose in March to 1.260 million, up 3.6% from the upwardly revised February rate of 1.216 million and up 17% from the March 2016 rate of 1.077 million. Permits were up most significantly in the West, although the strength was entirely in multifamily units. The estimate fell within the range expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. We raised our housing starts forecast to 1.26 million units in 2017 and 1.35 million units in 2018.

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