U.S. housing starts fell less than expected in December, pausing after recent strong gains that had propelled home building activity to multi-year highs.
The Commerce Department said on Friday groundbreaking dropped 9.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 999,000-unit pace.
It was the largest percentage decline since April.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected starts to fall to a 990,000-unit rate in December. For all of 2013, starts increased 18.3 percent to an average of 923,400-units.
Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, fell 7.0 percent to a 667,000-unit pace in December. Starts for the volatile multi-family homes segment declined 14.9 percent to a 332,000-unit rate.
Starts in the Midwest tumbled 33.5 percent, suggesting cold weather might have weighed on home building in the region last month.
While frigid weather probably dampened activity, some of the slowdown last month was also payback after November’s eye-catching gains. Permits in November had increased 23.1 percent and crossed the 1-million unit mark. That was the highest level since early 2008.
Residential construction has been on the rise after a brief lull last year in the wake of a run-up in mortgage rates.
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