UPDATE 2-Canada housing starts cool in July, signaling slowdown

Tue Aug 9, 2016 12:40pm EDT
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(Recasts with analyst comment)

By Andrea Hopkins

OTTAWA Aug 9 (Reuters) - Canadian housing starts fell in July compared with June, suggesting a long-awaited plateau in Canada's hot homebuilding sector may have begun after years of booming construction and sales that sparked fears of a bubble.

The pace of housing starts fell to 198,395 units in July from a revised 218,326 seasonally-adjusted annual rate in June, the national housing agency said on Tuesday, bringing construction starts closer to the pace of population growth.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp has previously warned of overbuilding in some regions and economists had expected starts to fall to a 195,000-unit pace in July.

"It's hard to see starts pushing higher than where they've been year to date," said Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics at Scotiabank, forecasting starts will eventually cool toward the 150,000-unit pace he considers closer to the rate of new household formation.

While the slowing pace of homebuilding will dim one of the few bright spots in Canada's economy and subtract from GDP growth as early as the third quarter, the surprise resilience of home construction has led to concern there could be glut of condominiums in Canada's hottest cities.

A sharp contraction in multiple-unit starts - typically condos - last month led July's decline, with urban multiple starts down 13.3 percent compared to a milder 1.8 percent dip in starts of single family homes.

Multiple starts had surged more than 25 percent in June. While the data is notoriously volatile from month to month, building permits have been declining and analysts believe it is only a matter of time before construction slows as well.   Continued...