US May housing starts up, permits at 5-mth high

WASHINGTON, June 16 Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:30am EDT

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WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) - U.S. housing starts rose more than expected and permits for future construction touched a five month high in May, a government report showed on Thursday, bu 536870914 1948279150

The Commerce Department said housing starts rose 3.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000 units, retracing almost half of Aprils steep decline. Aprils starts were re 1986622309

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a 540,000-unit rate. Compared to May last year, residential construction was down 3.4 percent.

An oversupply of previously owned houses, especially foreclosed properties which sell well below their value, is dampening new home construction. A survey on Wednesday showed sentiment a 536870913 1836019303

Last month, there was an increase in groundbreaking for both multi and single family homes. Starts in the West were the highest since August.

Multi-family home starts rose 2.9 percent. The increase in the construction of multi-family units reflects a growing demand for rentals as relentless declines in house prices encourage 1097688434

Single-family home construction, which accounts for a large portion of the market, rose 3.7 percent.

New building permits unexpectedly rebounded 8.7 percent to a 612,000-unit pace last month, the highest level since December. Economists had expected overall building permits in May to fa 536870913 1819025524

Permits were boosted by a 23.2 percent surge in the multi-family segment. Permits to build single-family homes rose 2.5 percent. New home completions climbed 0.4 percent to 544,000 unit 536870913 1931503982 (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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