Housing Starts Fall But Don't Collapse

By John S. McClenahen Although they were down 2.1% in April from March's revised rate of 2.011 million, starts of privately owned housing are far from collapsing. For example, April's seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.969 million, reported by the U.S. Commerce Department on May 18, was an impressive 20.3% above the April 2003 rate of 1.637 million. What's more, last's month's decreases were concentrated in starts for multifamily dwellings. They slid to a 315,000 rate, down 12.5% from March's figure. Starts for single-family housing slipped only 0.6% in April to an annual rate of 1.61 million. Looking ahead, UBS Investment Research foresees a slow decline in the rate of housing starts. "The recent bounce in mortgage rates will likely take a toll on housing as 2004 unfolds; however, stronger wage and job growth should temper the decline," says UBS.

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