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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Widespread plans to build apartment buildings and condominiums lifted the value of Canadian building permits in April by 10.5 percent from March, Statistics Canada said on Wednesday, defying market expectations of a 4 percent drop in permits.
It was the fourth straight month of gains in building permits, an early indicator of construction activity, after a downturn that began in mid-2012. Statscan revised its March data down to a 6 percent rise in permits from 8.6 percent previously.
The unexpected strength in permits issued in April, reaching C$7 billion ($6.8 billion), comes as other data suggest the country's once-hot housing market is cooling.
The overall value of residential permits jumped 21 percent. Multi-family housing projects surged 51.9 percent, led by plans to build apartments and condominiums in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, home to cities with the hottest condo markets.
Permits for single-family homes edged up 1.1 percent as gains in those three provinces were offset by declines in seven others.
The condo market in some of Canada's biggest cities has been a source of concern for policymakers who have repeatedly warned of overbuilding. Forecasters in a Reuters poll last Thursday predicted, on average, a soft landing for the Canadian housing market and expected home prices to fall 5 percent in the next few years.
In the non-residential sector, Statscan said permits fell 3.6 percent as a gain in the commercial component was offset by a decline in intentions for both institutional and industrial buildings.
Reporting by Louise Egan and Alex Paterson; Editing by James Dalgleish