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Housing starts cleared expectations in February, 3 percent above estimates to a rate of 1,288,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Single-family starts increased 6.5 percent to 872,000. Starts for units in buildings with five units or more came in at 396,000.

“This month’s gain in single-family starts is consistent with rising builder confidence in the housing market,” said Granger MacDonald, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in a statement. “We should see single-family production continue to grow throughout the year, tempered somewhat by supply-side constraints such as access to lots and labor.”

“The growth in the single-family arena is very encouraging, but may be partly attributable to unusually warm weather conditions throughout most of the country,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist of the NAHB.

Permits, however, fell—6.2 percent to 1,213,000. Single-family permits increased 3.1 percent to 832,000. Permits for units in buildings with five units or more came in at 334,000.

Completions totaled 1,114,000 in February, rising 5.4 percent. Single-family completions decreased 6.5 percent to 754,000. Completions for units in buildings with five units or more came in at 344,000.

“We should pay attention to the fact that permits were down in February,” writes Trulia Chief Economist Ralph McLaughlin. “Any downward movement should be of concern since monthly permit figures tend to be statistically significant.

“Despite the downward blip,” McLaughlin writes, “permits are the healthiest of these three indicators.”

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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