Housing starts rise in September

Despite the September 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. housing starts rose in September as the housing sector continued to display surprising resilience in a deteriorating economy, the Commerce Department said today. Groundbreaking for new homes hit a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.57-million units last month, a 1.7% increase over the August rate of 1.55-million units, and rose 4.4% from the previous September.

Despite the September 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. housing starts rose in September as the housing sector continued to display surprising resilience in a deteriorating economy, the Commerce Department said today.

Groundbreaking for new homes hit a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.57-million units last month, a 1.7% increase over the August rate of 1.55-million units, and rose 4.4% from the previous September. The rate of home starts exceeded the estimates of analysts polled by Reuters, who had forecast a 1.51 million unit pace.

Starts rose 12.5% in the West and 7.6% in the South, though they declined 16.6% in the Midwest and 11% in the Northeast. However, permits were at their lowest level since December 1997, when they were at 1.46 million, and marked the biggest decline since permits fell 3.5% in February.

Low mortgage rates have helped sustain home-buying in the face of dwindling consumer confidence and increased employment uncertainty, analysts say. The national average for a 30-year fixed-rate home loan was 6.58% last week, compared with 7.84% a year ago.

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