Housing starts jump in December

Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:03pm EST
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By Jennifer Kwan

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian housing starts climbed more than expected in December, fueled by low mortgage rates and a boom in condo construction, even as analysts predicted the once-hot sector would cool further in 2012.

Housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 200,200 units from an upwardly revised 185,600 units a month earlier, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp said on Tuesday.

The number of starts was well above the consensus expectation of 19 analysts polled by Reuters, who had called for 185,000 starts.

Canada's housing sector, which did not experience the subprime mortgage boom and bust seen in the United States, played a key role in lifting the economy out of recession as ultra-low interest rates drove sales and prices higher.

The latest data showed the seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts rose by 10.1 percent to 181,900 units, CMHC said.

Multiple-unit urban starts, which include condominiums, accounted for the lion's share of the overall rise, increasing by 14.5 percent to 111,300 units in December. The government agency said multiple starts were especially strong in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

Urban single starts climbed by 3.8 percent to 70,600 units. Rural starts were estimated at 18,300.

Even so, analysts noted housing starts over the last three months of 2011 declined from the prior quarter.   Continued...