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Housing Starts Dip in April, Permits Rise

May 19, 2004
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. housing starts slid in April, the government said on Tuesday, but permits to build new homes rose more than expected in a sign builders foresee solid demand as buyers rush to lock in low mortgage interest rates.

The Commerce Department said homebuilders broke ground at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.969 million units last month, down 2.1 percent from an upwardly revised 2.011 million in March. Analysts had expected starts to edge down to an annual pace of 1.99 million units.

House construction permits, a sign of builder confidence, climbed to 1.999 million units in April, a 1.2 percent increase from an upwardly revised pace of 1.975 million units the month before. Analysts were expecting permits to remain steady at about 1.95 million.

The National Association of Home Builders said on Monday its housing index, a gauge of builder sentiment on sales and buyer traffic, was at 69 for May, unchanged from April. A reading above 50 means more builders see sales conditions as good than see them as poor.

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