Housing starts in the U.S. fell more than anticipated in December, while building permits unexpectedly jumped, signaling inclement weather may have kept builders away from worksites.
Work began on 557,000 houses at an annual rate, down 4 percent from November, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. Permits, a sign of future construction, climbed to the highest level in a year.
The government’s extension and expansion of a tax credit for first-time buyers may help underpin demand in the first half of 2010, giving builders reason to ramp up new projects. The gain in permits, which are less influenced by weather, indicates an unseasonably cold and wet December probably prevented some work from getting started last month, according to economists like Maury Harris.