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U.S. Housing Starts Down in April, Industry Remains Confident
May 19, 2004
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U.S. housing starts decreased slightly to a seasonably adjusted annual rate of 1.969 million units in April, the Commerce Department reported. The pace was 2.1 percent less than March's revised rate of 2.011 million, but 20.3 percent higher than April 2003.

"Builders remain confident about the market as demand for single-family homes and condominiums remains strong, even as mortgage rates begin to edge up," said Bobby Rayburn, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders added: "Momentum in the housing market is as strong as ever. Housing starts in March were boosted by an unusual swing in weather conditions, and the April pace actually was above the average for the first quarter of last year.

"On the financing front, mortgage rates have risen from their March lows but remain quite favorable on an historical basis," Mr. Seiders continued. "Furthermore, stronger growth in jobs and income is supporting housing demand, and that pattern should continue throughout the year."

Single-family housing starts decreased 0.6 percent to a pace of 1.610 million units for April. This was an 18.1-percent increase over the April 2003 pace.

Multi-family housing starts decreased 8.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 359,000 units for the month. The multi-family pace was 31.0 percent above a year earlier.

The pace of construction of new homes and apartments increased across all U.S. regions but the West, which fell by 13.7 percent.

For the month, issuance of total building permits increased 1.2 percent from March to a seasonably adjusted rate of 1.999 million units. This was 11.2 percent above April 2003. Single-family permit issuance decreased by 0.7 percent from the March pace, while multi-family permits were up 8.3 percent.

"Buyer demand is strong, inventories of unsold houses are lean, and there's a sizeable backlog of unused building permits,” Mr. Seiders said. "This bodes well for housing production in the coming months."

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