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January housing starts jump

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New housing starts rose 21 percent in January from a year ago, the Census Bureau said today, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000. That's up from a record low pace of 479,000 units per year seen in April, but still well off the 1 million to 2 million-a-year range that's been the norm for five decades. During the last boom, housing starts peaked at 2.07 million in 2005. Single-family home starts were up 36 percent from a year ago, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 484,000 per year. Single-family home starts, which typically exceed 1 million a year when the economy is not in a recession, hit an all-time high of 1.72 million in 2005 before plunging to 445,000 last year. Analysts said builders may be putting up homes on "spec" to beat the expiration of a federal homebuyer tax credit, currently limited to homes under contract by April 30 and closing by June 30. Building permits were also up 16.9 percent in January from a year ago, to a seasonally adjusted ann...