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.

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