UPDATE 2-Canadian housing starts slow in December

Wed Jan 9, 2013 11:04am EST
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* December rate down but tops analysts' average forecast

* Rural starts drop but urban starts stable

* Below trend in all regions except Ontario

By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Canadian housing starts slowed in December but more gradually than expected as an increase in single-family starts in urban areas softened the sting of a slowdown in multiple-unit and rural ground-breakings, a report on Wednesday said.

Figures published by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp provided further evidence that Canada's long housing boom had ended, although activity remained robust in the cities of Ontario, the country's most populous province.

Seasonally adjusted, the annual rate of housing starts was 197,976 units in December, down slightly from 201,376 in November but above an average forecast of 195,000 among analysts polled by Reuters.

"Although today's numbers look a bit better than expected, they mark the fourth straight month of slowing in homebuilding activity, suggesting that Canada's once-bustling homebuilding sector is cooling," Emanuella Enenajor, an economist at CIBC World Markets, said in a research note.

The November figure was revised up from the 196,125 units reported previously.   Continued...