Housing Starts Collapse and Home Builders are Sliding

Yesterday, homebuilders (NYSE:XHB) were one of the few bright spots in a heavily hit market. This morning they are giving back some of the gains on a horrible report from the Commerce Department that privately-owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 479,000 — 22.5 percent the revised January estimate of 618,000 and 20.8 percent below the February 2010 rate of 605,000.

Ouch!

Single-family housing starts in February were at a rate of 375,000 — 11.8 percent below the revised January figure of 425,000. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 96,000.

Building Permits Took a Hit Too

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 517,000 — 8.2 percent below the revised January rate of 563,000 and is 20.5 percent below the February 2010 estimate of 650,000.

Single-family authorizations in February were at a rate of 382,000 — 9.3 percent below the revised January figure of 421,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 121,000 in February.

Housing Completions were Better than January, but Below February

Privately-owned housing completions in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 581,000 — 13.9 percent above the revised January estimate of 510,000, but is 13.0 percent below the February 2010 rate of 668,000.

Single-family housing completions in February were at a rate of 468,000 — 11.2 percent above the revised January rate of 421,000. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 107,000.

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