Strength in single-family permits leads a mostly favorable housing starts report for February where however the headlines are mixed, at a 1.288 million annualized rate for starts and a 1.213 million rate for total permits. The results compare with Econoday expectations of 1.270 million for both.
Permits for single-family homes, where building costs and sale prices are the highest, rose 3.1 percent in February to an 832,000 rate that, in good news for a thinly supplied new home market, is up 13.5 percent year-on-year. This is offset, however, by a downturn in multi-family units where permits fell 22 percent in the month to a 381,000 rate that is down a yearly 11.2 percent.
Starts for single-family homes, like permits, are also favorable, up 6.5 percent to an 872,000 rate and a 3.2 percent on-year gain. Multi-family starts fell 3.7 percent in the month to 416,000 but are still up 13.0 percent on the year.
Regional data for total permits show special strength in the Midwest, a region where starts have been on a sharp decline. Starts in the Northeast are especially strong with the South also showing strength.
Yet supply relief for single-family homes is still in the offing as completions, in a detail that home builders will note, fell 6.5 percent to a 754,000 rate. Nevertheless, new supply is coming as homes under construction rose 1.3 percent to 1.091 million for the highest reading since the great bubble in October 2007.
Permits for single-family housing have been climbing at a double-digit pace and may now be overtaking multi-family units as the strongest forward indicator for a new home market where lack of supply has been holding down sales. For starts, the roles reverse with multi units leading single units. Forecasters see housing starts coming in at a 1.270 million annualized pace in February in what would be a 1.9 percent gain from January's 1.246 million rate. For building permits, the consensus is also 1.270 million for what would be a 1.8 percent decline from January's revised 1.293 million.