US single-family housing starts soar in February

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 7:45 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. single-family homebuilding rebounded sharply in February amid mild temperatures and a persistent shortage of previously owned houses on the market.

Single-family housing starts, which account for the bulk of homebuilding, surged 11.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.129 million units last month, the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau said on Tuesday.

Data for January was revised higher to show single-family starts falling to a rate of 1.064 million units instead of the previously reported 1.004 million units.

Permits for the future construction of single-family homes rose 1.0% to a rate of 1.031 million units in February.

Though the housing market has been pummeled by aggressive interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve as it battles inflation, homebuilding has been supported by an acute housing shortage, with most homeowners locked into lower mortgage rates.

Recent government data showed there were 757,000 housing units for sale in the fourth quarter, well below the 1.145 million units before the COVID-19 pandemic.

A survey from the National Association of Home Builders on Monday showed confidence among single-family home builders rose to an eight-month high in March amid optimism about sales now and over the six months.

Fed officials were due to gather for a two-day meeting on Tuesday. They are expected to leave the policy rate unchanged at the current 5.25%-5.50% range on Wednesday, having raised it by 525 basis points since March 2022.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)