Construction of single-family homes fell to a more than 18-month low in February, as housing starts declined 8.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.162 million units.
The Commerce Department data show that the percent decline was the biggest in eight months, citing bad weather as a possible downward pressure on housing starts for the month. CNBC reports that January 2019 and December 2018 data was revised upward. Permits to build homes also decreased, down 1.6 percent to a 1.296 million unit rate in February, the second decrease in a row, though permits are outpacing starts, a possible indicator of future, stronger building activity.
The housing market hit a soft patch last year, squeezed by higher mortgage rates, pricey lumber, and land and labor shortages, which led to tight inventories and more expensive homes. But borrowing costs have eased as the Federal Reserve signaled it was halting further interest rates increases this year amid growing headwinds to the economy.