US Housing Starts Drop in February Permits Rise

U.S. housing starts fell for a third straight month in February, but a rebound in building permits offered some hope for the housing market as it struggles to emerge from a soft patch.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday groundbreaking slipped 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000 units.

That followed January’s revised 11.2 percent decline and suggested underlying weakness in housing activity apart from the drag of cold weather. January starts were previously reported to have tumbled 16 percent.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected starts to rise to a 910,000-unit rate last month.

Groundbreaking plunged 37.5 percent in the Northeast last month, indicating unusually cold temperatures continued to dampen housing activity.

That was the biggest drop in more than two years and pushed starts in the Northeast to their lowest level since November 2012.

Starts also fell 5.5 percent in the West, which was unaffected by severe weather. The weather explanation for the weak housing data is challenged by a 7.3 percent rise in starts in the South and a 34.5 percent jump in the Midwest.

Housing started losing momentum last summer, with sales falling after a run-up in mortgage rates.

While mortgage rates have dropped a bit and the weather is starting to warm up, housing will probably take a while to regain strength as high prices and a shortage of homes on the market keep out potential buyers.

via Reuters

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Alfonso Esparza

Alfonso Esparza

Senior Currency Analyst at Market Pulse
Alfonso Esparza specializes in macro forex strategies for North American and major currency pairs. Upon joining OANDA in 2007, Alfonso Esparza established the MarketPulseFX blog and he has since written extensively about central banks and global economic and political trends. Alfonso has also worked as a professional currency trader focused on North America and emerging markets. He has been published by The MarketWatch, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and The Globe and Mail, and he also appears regularly as a guest commentator on networks including Bloomberg and BNN. He holds a finance degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) and an MBA with a specialization on financial engineering and marketing from the University of Toronto.
Alfonso Esparza