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Housing starts fall from February

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing starts for the month of March fell 11.9 percent to 947,000 from a revised February estimate of 1.075 million units. That figure is 36.5 percent below the 1.491 million housing starts recorded in the same period last year.

Single-family housing starts in March were at a rate of 680,000. This is 5.7 percent below the February figure of 721,000.

Issuance of building permits fell 5.8 percent in March to a rate of 927,000. Year-over-year, the rate of building permit authorizations fell 40.9 percent.

Still, builder confidence remained unchanged this month, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The trade group reported a builders confidence index at 20, the same as in March.

“With the traditional home buying season now well underway, we have not seen the bump in sales activity that we normally would this time of year,” said Sandy Dunn, NAHB president. “At this point, all eyes are on Congress and its efforts to craft meaningful legislation to help support the housing market and stabilize our nation’s economy before it heads deeper into recession.”

The index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as either “good,” “fair” or “poor.” Any number under 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as poor than good.

Regionally, the index’s results were mixed in April, with a one-point gain to 22 registered in the Northeast, a one-point decline to 15 registered in the Midwest, a two-point decline to 24 posted for the South and a two-point gain to 17 posted for the West.

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