Home building starts fell less than expected in January, dipping 3.6% to 1.567 million units vs. 1.45 million expected. Permits, an indicator of future construction, rose near the highest point in 13 years, indicating upcoming strength in the housing market.
- Construction started on 1.567 million homes in January vs. 1.45 million expected, falling 3.6%.
- December data was revised upward to show 1.626 million units, the highest level since December 2006 vs. 1.608 initially reported.
- Permits rose 9.2% to 1.551 million units, the highest since March 2007.
Construction in single-family homes, which accounts for the largest share of the market, dipped 5.9% to 1.010 million units last month compared to 1.073 million the month before. Single-family housing saw growth in the Northeast and West, but fell in the Midwest and South. Permits for this segment rose 6.4% to 987,000 units last month, the highest level since 2007. The more volatile multi-family segment grew 0.7% to 557,000 new units last month, and permits in this segment shot up 14.6% to 564,000 units.
The market outperformed expectations, and December data was revised to show a 14-year high in housing starts last month according to the Commerce Department. The latest data shows strength in the housing market, with lower mortgage rates encouraging new buyers. The average rate of a 30-year fixed mortgage is now at 3.47%, the lowest since October 2016, according to mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac.
January housing starts stayed strong, proving that December's surge was not just a flash in the pan. These were the two best months for starts since 2006. https://t.co/7rr87tmT42 pic.twitter.com/jvZfdxLCDH
— Jeff Tucker (@Jeff_Tucke) February 19, 2020
Housing starts still fell last month, dipping 3.6% overall after three consecutive monthly increases. However, annual figures are more promising as starts rose 21.4% in the 12 months through January. Housing accounts for 3.1% of GDP. Permits rose 92%, indicating strong demand for housing. Permits were driven by demand in both the single-family and multi-family housing segments. Home builder sentiment is near a two-year high according to a survey released on Tuesday, although land and labor shortages continue to negatively impact the production of affordable housing.
Gold prices have held gains following the news. Spot gold last traded at $1,603.25/oz, up 0.20% with a high of $1,610.97/oz and a low of $1,599.70/oz. The precious metals market is still being boosted by risk aversion resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, which has triggered the largest quarantine in human history. Over 700 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, are now under quarantine in an effort to contain the virus.
Apple recently announced that the outbreak would impact Q1 sales due to the disruption to the company’ supply chain, and this may be repeated with other major companies as well, causing investors to look to gold as a hedge against the potential impact on the global stock markets.