U.S. housing construction rises 1.6 percent in March

08:31, April 19, 2010      

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U.S. housing construction in March increased 1.6 percent, the highest level in 16 months, according to a government report released Friday.

The Commerce Department said that privately owned housing starts rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.6 percent to 626,000 last month, better than economists' expectation of 610,000 units.

The report also revised up activity in February to show a 1.1 percent gain rather than the initially reported drop of 5.9 percent.

Applications for building permits, an indicator of future activity, also recorded a better-than-expected increase, rising 7.5 percent to an annual rate of 685,000.

Economists say the March housing market strength reflected the continuing economic recovery. However, market sentiment remains cautious given a multitude of problems facing commercial real estate, including high apartment vacancy rates to rising foreclosures of commercial properties.

The collapse of the housing bubble triggered the global financial crisis that plunged the U.S. economy into recession in December 2007.



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