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Housing starts stuck under 550,000

Housing starts rose 7.2% in March.

The Department of Commerce's residential construction report released today shows both total starts and single-family starts for March are up over February, but way down compared with March 2010.

March housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 549,000, up 7.2% from February, but down 13.4% from the same month last year.

Single-family starts were reported at a pace of 422,000, up 7.7% compared with February, but down 21.1% compared with March 2010.

On an unadjusted basis, there were an estimated 45,900 total housing starts in March.

Also on an unadjusted basis, the first three months of 2011 have yielded 121,000 housing starts, compared with 134,300 in the first three months of 2010. With the first quarter of 2011 running at a 9.9% decrease, early forecasts of a 20% gain in 2011 housing starts look increasingly bullish. And to add perspective to the numbers: March 2011 was the second slowest March on record -- only March 2009, with its pace of 520,000 starts, was slower in terms of residential construction.

Building permits were up 2.6% to a March rate of 594,000. But this seasonally adjusted annual rate was also down double digits -- 13.3% -- from the March 2010 estimate. 

I will now pop the champagne

I will now pop the champagne when starts hit 600,000, a figure revised downward from 1 million.