In February, US housing starts dropped slightly, while the consensus was looking for a marginal increase. Housing starts dropped by 1.1% M/M to a total level of 698 000, while the January outcome was upwardly revised from 706 000. The details show that a surge in multi-family starts (21.1% M/M) was more than offset by a drop in single-family starts (-9.9% M/M). Building permits, on the contrary, surprised on the upside of expectations, rising to the highest level since October 2008. In February, building permits increased by 5.1% M/M from an upwardly revised 682 000 to 717 000, while the consensus was looking for only a marginal increase (to 686 000).
Strength was based in both the single-family (4.9% M/M) sector and in multi-family (5.6% M/M) permits. Housing under construction rose for a sixth consecutive month, by 1.1% M/M to a total level of 444 000, while housing completed rebounded by 6.2% M/M. Although the data are somewhat mixed, they still confirm that the US housing market is slightly gaining momentum. Building permits rose to the highest level in more than three years, while the slight decline in starts might be weather-related.