Housing starts dip, but still sturdy in March

Tue Apr 8, 2008 12:55pm EDT
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By Renato Andrade

TORONTO (Reuters) - Housing starts fell less than expected in March, underlining the resilience of the domestic market in contrast to the United States, where the housing sector continues to deteriorate.

Last month, housing starts in Canada dipped just 0.35 percent to a seasonally adjusted annualized 254,700 units, from a downward-revised 255,600 units in February, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. February's housing starts were previously estimated at 256,900 units.

The number of starts in March well exceeded the consensus expectation of analysts for 220,000 units.

"This strength continues to illustrate the dichotomy in the Canadian and U.S. housing markets," said Scotia Capital economist Karen Cordes in a note for clients.

March's housing starts were supported by a 1.1 percent jump in the urban multiple-units segment, particularly condominium starts, said Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC's Market Analysis Center.

On the other hand, single-unit starts dropped 2.9 percent from February to March, to 80,500 units.

"This is consistent with our view that the housing market will moderate gradually throughout 2008," said Dugan.