Privately owned housing starts in March came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,089,000, down 8.8% from the revised February estimate of 1,194,000. However, it is 14.2% higher than the March 2015 rate of 954,000, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Lindsey Piegza, chief economist for STIFEL, noted that housing starts unexpectedly fell to a five-month low and were only expected to decline a minimal 1.1% at the end of Q1. 

Building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,086,000, which is 7.7% below the revised February rate of 1,177,000, but 4.6% above the March 2015 estimate of 1,038,000. 

Piegza added that building permits also a posted a disappointing report relative to the 2.0% gain forecast, and a seven-month low.

Meanwhile, privately owned housing completions in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,061,000, up 3.5% from the revised February estimate of 1,025,000. This is also 31.6% above the March 2015 rate of 806,000.