Jeffrey Sparshott and Jamila Trindle
Wall Street Journal
January 19, 2011

Home construction in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in more than a year in December as builders cut back on new single-family homes, the latest sign of a moribund market.

Housing starts fell 4.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 529,000 from an downwardly revised 553,000 a month earlier, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. However, building permits, a gauge of future construction, surged 16.7% to an annual rate of 635,000.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected overall housing starts to fall slightly in December to a rate of 554,000 from the government’s original estimate of 555,000 in November.

The results were driven by a 9.0% drop in single-family home construction to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000. Construction of dwellings with five or more units, a volatile part of the market, rose 25.9% last month.

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