Housing starts slumped in February by the most in four years as bad winter weather in parts of the U.S. prevented builders from initiating new projects.
Work began on 897,000 houses at an annualized rate, down 17 percent from January and the fewest in a year, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday in Washington. The median estimate of 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 1.04 million.
“It was just the weather, basically,” said Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp. in Birmingham, Alabama. Still, “my view of the recovery in single-family housing is that it’s coming more gradually than others think.”
An increase in building permits was driven by applications for multifamily units, indicating single-family construction, the biggest part of the market, will keep struggling. While stronger hiring and low borrowing costs have helped the industry advance, sales remain challenged by limited supply of cheaper homes and sluggish wage growth.
The median estimate of 81 economists in the Bloomberg survey called for 1.04 million starts. Estimates ranged from annualized rates of 975,000 to 1.08 million after a previously reported January pace of 1.07 million.
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