US housing starts dive in December

WASHINGTON - US housing starts dived almost 10 per cent in December after hitting a five-year high in November, the government reported Friday.

New residential construction fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 999,900 in December from the revised November estimate of 1.1 million, the Commerce Department said.

"The month-to-month decline of 9.8 per cent doesn't quite reverse the strong November gain, however, and keeps starts near the one million mark. Winter storms may have caused some of the retrenchment," said Celia Chen of Moody's Analytics.

Building permits, a sign of potential future housing construction, fel l 3.0 per cent from November to an annual rate of 986,000. The decline in housing starts was a bit less than analysts expected; the consensus estimate was for 986,000.

Building permits fell short of the 1,000 estimate.

On a year-over-year basis, housing starts were up 1.6 per cent and building permits were up 4.6 per cent.