Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Housing Starts Fall 6 Pct. in September


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. housing starts slowed by a larger-than-expected 6 percent in September after two months of gains, but permits granted to builders outpaced expectations, a government report showed on Tuesday.

Housing starts dipped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.898 million from an upwardly revised 2.020 million pace in August, the Commerce Department said. Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting a 1.950 million clip.

Permits, a sign of builder confidence, rose 1.8 percent last month to an annual 2.005 million unit rate from a 1.969 pace in August.

Single-family starts posted their biggest drop since February 2003, tumbling 8.2 percent to a 1.540 million unit level from a revised 1.678 million clip. Single-family starts fell by 5.2 percent in the South, the busiest building region, by 13.1 percent in the West, by 6.5 percent in the Midwest, and by 13.6 percent in the Northeast.

Multi-family housing starts gained 4.7 percent, the third straight monthly increase, to a 358,000 annualized rate.

Regionally, total housing starts fell 1 percent in the South, 7.9 percent in the West, 4.6 percent in the Midwest, and 26.9 percent in the Northeast.

Home building gained fresh strength in the summer on a decline in mortgage rates that were already not far above 40-year lows. Interest rates on the popular 30-year fixed rate home loan eased to a national average of 5.74 percent last week after a government report showing a weak jobs market raised worries that economic growth is slowing.


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