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Housing starts, building permits vault higher, offer hope for housing

U.S. housing starts jumped in April and building permits hit their highest level in nearly six years, offering hope that the troubled housing market could be stabilizing.

The Commerce Department said on Friday groundbreaking increased 13.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.07 million units, the highest level since November 2013.

Starts rose by a revised 2.0 percent in March. They had previously been reported to have gained 2.8 percent.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast starts rising to a 980,000-unit rate last month.

Residential housing is constructed at the Norton Commons subdivision in Louisville, Kentucky, May 13, 2014.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Residential housing is constructed at the Norton Commons subdivision in Louisville, Kentucky, May 13, 2014.

The housing market recovery has stalled as a combination of higher mortgage rates and rising property prices, against the backdrop of stagnant wage growth, makes housing less affordable for many Americans. A cold winter also weighed on activity.

The residential sector contracted in the first three months of 2014, declining for a second consecutive quarter.

With the multi-family sector segment continuing to drive residential construction, housing is unlikely to contribute to economic growth this year for the first time since 2010.

Last month, groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, rose 0.8 percent to a 649,000-unit pace. Starts for the volatile multi-family homes segment surged 39.6 percent to a 423,000-unit rate.

Permits to build homes jumped 8.0 percent to a 1.08-million unit pace in April, the highest since June 2008. Economists had expected permits to rise to a 1.01-million unit pace.

Permits for single-family homes rose 0.3 percent to a 602,000-unit pace.

Single-family homes permits continue to lag groundbreaking, suggesting that single-family starts could decline in the months ahead to bring them in line with permits.

A survey on Thursday showed confidence among single-family home builders slipped to a one-year low in May.

Permits for multi-family homes soared 19.5 percent to a 478,000-unit rate in April.

--By Reuters

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