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Apartments drive increase in housing starts

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In a surprise to many analysts, U.S. housing starts rose 22.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units in February, although most of the gain was attributable to a sharp rise in construction of new apartments. Tuesday's report by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development showed an 82.3 percent month-to-month increase in multifamily starts, to 226,000 a year, while single-family starts were up a more modest 1.1 percent, to an annual rate of 357,000 a year. While "welcome news," the gain reflects only "a modest rebound from January," the "worst month in history for new-home production," said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chief Economist David Crowe in a statement. The number of building permits issued for single-family homes jumped 11 percent from January to February, to an annual rate of 373,000, "suggesting a glimmer of hope for the prime home-buying season," said...