March housing starts decline to rate of 510,000
Home channel executives who were hoping for good news in residential construction data released today didn't find it. Instead, housing starts declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 510,000, down 10.8% from the revised February pace of 572,000.
Analysts participating in Briefing.com were expecting March's rate to be anywhere from 500,000 to 580,000.
Compared to February, single-family homes held steady at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 358,000. But one year ago, single-family starts were at a rate of 711,000.
By region, housing starts compared with the prior month increased 6.3% in the Northeast, increased 15.9% in the Midwest, declined 16.8% in the South and declined 26.3% in the West.
The housing starts figure ran counter to an optimistic report on builder confidence that was released Wednesday. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) found builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose five points in April to the highest level since October 2008. This gain was the largest one-month increase recorded since May 2003 and brings the HMI out of single-digit territory for the first time in six months -- to 14. Every component of the HMI reflected the boost, with the biggest gain recorded for sales expectations in the next six months.
The Commerce Department report also showed that applications for building permits fell in March, dropping 9% to an annual rate of 513,000 units.