Housing starts climb 10.5% in August

New home construction rose 10.5% in August to the highest level since April, easily topping analysts’ estimates and possibly indicating more stability to the beleaguered housing market. Housing starts climbed to a seasonally adjusted 598,000 units last month from a downwardly revised 541,000 for July, according to the Commerce Department. Analysts were expecting a slight increase to 550,000 units. A survey of economists by Econoday provided a range of estimates between 520,000 and 575,000 for August starts. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were projecting 535,000 starts for last month, and Bloomberg’s median forecast was 550,000. Starts of apartment units last month soared 32.2% to 160,000, which is on top of a 36% gain in July. Meanwhile single-family starts increased 4.3% in August after falling 6.7% in July, the Commerce Department said. Permits for new construction, a leading indicator of upcoming building activity, rose about 1.8% to 569,000 from 559,000 one month earlier. Economists were expecting August permits to inch up to 560,000. On Monday, the National Association of Home Builders said its homebuilder sentiment index for September remained at 13, unchanged from the prior month and at a 17-month low. A reading below 50 indicates pessimism about the housing market and the index, which is done in conjunction with Wells Fargo (WFC), has stayed lower than that since early 2006. Write to Jason Philyaw.

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