Market Insider

Markets want to know if housing activity is freezing again

After the steep drop in homebuilder sentiment in February, Wednesday's housing starts report could have more impact than usual.

As economists sift through data to separate the weather impact from other possible causes, the National Association of Home Builders survey raised a red flag. The headline dropped 10 points to 46, its lowest level since May. There were large declines in key elements of the report; present sales fell 11 points to 51, while sales expectations were down six points at 54. Prospective buyer traffic, clearly a possible weather impact, was off nine points at 31.

January housing starts, reported at 8:30 a.m., are expected to decline 4.9 percent to 950,000, and building permits are seen falling 1.1 percent to 980,000.