Housing starts fell 1.1 percent in February to 698,000, compared with market expectations for a smaller decline, the Census Bureau and ""HUD"":http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD jointly reported Tuesday.[IMAGE]
Single-family starts plunged 9.9 percent to 457,000, the steepest decline in a year, according to the agencies.
The starts suggest strongly January's unexpectedly strong report was influenced by unseasonably warm weather, which pulled starts forward.
Single-family starts have been basically flat for the past three years at a weak level. Only a surge in multifamily activity has kept residential construction from falling off the table.[COLUMN_BREAK]
Home sales and housing construction continue to struggle with still high unemployment and relatively weak income growth compounded by tighter mortgage lending standards. The report offered little encouragement for a quick turnaround in the housing sector.
Housing permits, unaffected by weather, rose 5.1 percent in February to 717,000 compared with market expectations they would increase to 700,000. Single family permits increased in February to 472,000 from 450,000 in January.
The largest decline in single-family starts came in the tornado-ravaged South, falling to 238,000 from 288,000 one month ago, on net accounting for the entire drop in starts nationwide.
Single-family starts rose 5,000 in the Northeast and 11,000 in the Midwest, offsetting a 16,000 drop in the West which was ""wetter than average,"" according to the National Weather Service.
Housing completions rose 6.2 percent in February as single family completions rose 8.2 percent to 421,000 ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô about 100,000 more than the reported 321,000 new home sale for January. New home sales for February will be reported Friday.
Multifamily starts rose to 233,000 in February from 181,000 in January, while multifamily permits increased to 219,000 from 212,000.