While having been gradually relegated to B-grade economic data status, today's housing starts and building permits report from the Commerce Department, painted a mixed picture, with January starts declining 2.6%, from 1.279million to 1.246 million, below expectations of a 0.1% increase, however due to the upward prior revision, today's absolute print beat expectations of 1.222 million units started (forecast range 1168k - 1320k from 77 economists). Looking inside the data, single family starts rose to 823k, while multifamily starts fell to 423k in Jan.
But while January housing starts were lukewarm, building permits jumped by far more impressive 4.6%, rising from 1.228MM to 1.285MM, driven entirely by multi-family, aka rental, units which soared by 23.5%, as single-family unit permits declined by 2.7% to 808K.
Finally, while little tracked, housing completions fell to 1047k in Jan., from 1109k the prior month, as single-family completions rose to 800k; multifamily completions fell to 247k in Jan.
Overall, s table housing report, although as the charts below show, both starts and permits remain locked in a multi-year range, well below the pre-crisis highs, as builders are looking for a signal to take take a major push forward in new home construction.