UPDATE 1-Canadian housing starts unexpectedly gain in January

Mon Feb 9, 2015 10:37am EST
 
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(Adds details from report, analysts comments, graphic)

OTTAWA Feb 9 (Reuters) - Homebuilders broke new ground on more Canadian homes than expected last month, lifted by an increase in starts on multi-unit buildings, data showed on Monday.

A report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp (CMHC) showed the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts rose to 187,276 units last month from a downwardly revised 179,637 in December. That surpassed the 178,000 economists had expected.

December had previously been reported as 180,560 units.

Canada avoided the worst of the global financial crisis, and in the years since, its housing market has had robust growth amid low interest rates.

While the Bank of Canada's surprise interest rate cut last month is seen as continuing to support the market, economists expect housing starts to taper this year and next. The CMHC said the six-month moving average of starts slipped to 188,956 in January from 191,627 in December.

That decline should continue over the course of the year due to weakness in regions tied to the energy sector and hurt by lower oil prices, said David Tulk, chief Canada macro strategist at TD Securities in Toronto. Still, that could be counterbalanced by cheaper mortgages, he added.

"The impact of lower rates across the rest of the country may inspire greater demand, which will provide a partial positive offset and speak to the theme of a better regional balance across the country," Tulk wrote.

New construction in the multiples category rose to 115,008 units from 102,384, while starts in single-detached units edged down to 57,314 from 59,556. Starts in rural areas also declined, to 14,954 from 17,697. (Reporting by Leah Schnurr)