U.S. Housing Starts Dropped in April

05/16/18 08:45 AM EDT
   By Sarah Chaney and Sharon Nunn 

U.S. housing starts fell in April, pulled down by weakness in multifamily building.

Housing starts fell 3.7% in April from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.287 million, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Residential building permits, which can signal how much construction is in the pipeline, dropped 1.8% to an annual pace of 1.352 million last month.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 1.4% decrease for starts and a 0.3% decline for permits in April.

Starts declined 12.6% last month for buildings with five or more units. Permits last month were down for buildings with multiple units.

Housing-starts data are volatile from month to month and can be subject to large revisions. April's 3.7% decline for starts came with a margin of error of 11.4 percentage points.

The broader trend shows some pickup, as starts grew by 9.1% in the first four months of 2018 compared with the same period a year earlier. Permits in the first four months of the year climbed by 8.8% from a year earlier.

Housing starts in March were revised up to a 1.336 million annual pace from an initial estimate of 1.319 million. Permits were revised up to a 1.377 million rate from an earlier-reported 1.354 million.

Single-family home building has held near the highest levels since before the recession began, while construction of larger buildings eased as the market for new condominiums and apartments has cooled. In April, single-family home construction in the South was at the highest level since July 2007.

Starts and permits edged up in April for single-family construction. Starts for single-family units grew 8.3% in the first four months of this year compared to the comparable year-earlier period. Permits for this category of homes grew 8.6% in January through April compared with the same period in 2017.

The U.S. housing market has been supported in recent years by falling unemployment and continued job and income gains, though would-be home buyers face tight supply and fast-rising prices in many markets. Mortgage rates also have risen, though they remain low by historical standards. Inflation-adjusted fixed residential investment was flat in the first quarter, the Commerce Department estimated late last month.

Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 16, 2018 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)

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