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New lows for housing starts, permits

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The pace of housing construction activity fell to a record low in December, the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today. Building-permit activity dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 549,000 in December, down about 50.6 percent compared to the same month last year. And the rate of housing starts dropped 45 percent year-over-year in December to 550,000. This rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for typical seasonal fluctuations in construction activity. The pace of residential building-permit activity was down 75.7 percent in December 2008 from its peak of 2.26 million in September 2005 -- and single-family permit activity was down 79.8 percent. For housing starts, the seasonally adjusted annual rate in December plunged 75.8 percent from its peak of 2.27 million in January 2006, and for single-family starts fell 78.2 percent from its peak of 1.18 million in January 2006. "...