US housing starts rose less than expected in March and building permits fell, pointing to underlying weakness in the housing market that could persist despite better weather.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday groundbreaking increased 2.8 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000.
February’s starts were revised to show a 1.9 per cent rise rather than the previously reported 0.2 per cent fall. Economists polled by Reuters had expected starts to rise to a 973,000-unit rate last month.
Housing Starts, US
Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, surged 6 per cent to a 635,000-unit pace last month. Starts for the volatile multi-family homes segment fell 3.1 per cent to a 311,000-unit rate.
That was the lowest level since last October.
Permits to build homes fell 2.4 per cent in March to a 990,000-unit pace. Permits for single-family homes rose 0.5 per cent but fell 6.4 per cent for the multi-family sector.
But other figures indicated the recovery remains dicey despite the onset of spring. Compared with a year earlier, housing starts were down 5.9 per cent in March. And building permits, a bellwether of future construction, declined 2.4 per cent in March from the prior month to a pace of 990,000, marking the fourth drop in five months.