U.S. housing starts approach two-year low; permits weak

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. homebuilding dropped to a near two-year low in March, pulled down by persistent weakness in the single-family housing segment, suggesting the housing market continued to struggle despite declining mortgage rates.

FILE PHOTO: A construction worker builds a single family home in San Diego, California, U.S. February 15, 2017. Picture taken February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Some of the weakness in homebuilding reported by the Commerce Department on Friday likely reflected disruptions caused by massive flooding in the Midwest, with housing starts in the region declining to levels last seen in early 2015. The report bucked a recent tide of upbeat data that indicated the economy regained speed as the first quarter ended.

Housing starts fell 0.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.139 million units last month, the lowest level since May 2017. Data for February was revised down to show homebuilding tumbling to a pace of 1.142 million units instead of the previously reported 1.162 million-unit rate.

Housing starts in the Midwest, which was devastated by floods during the month, dropped 17.6 percent.

Building permits fell 1.7 percent to a rate of 1.269 million units in March, the lowest in five months. Building permits