Housing Starts Exceed Expectations

Starts for privately owned housing were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.276 million last month, significantly higher than the 1.97 million rate economists generally expected. The start rate was 14.5% higher than December 2005's revised rate of 1.988 million, the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported jointly on Feb. 16.

Single-family housing starts last month were at an annual rate of 1.819 million, 12.8% greater than the December rate of 1.613 million. Starts for buildings with five or more units were at an annual rate of 427,000 last month, 24.5% higher than in December.

Building permits for privately owned housing, an important indicator of future construction, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.217 million in January, 6.8% higher than December 2005's rate of 2.075 million.

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