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December U.S. housing starts fall; permits surge

December U.S. housing starts fall; permits surge (by Jeffry Bartash)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - Construction of new U.S. homes fell 4.3% to an annualized rate of 529,000 in December, but permits jumped 16.7%, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected housing starts in December to drop to 545,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. Yet permits for new construction, viewed as a more accurate gauge of home building, jumped to an annualized rate of 635,000 in December - the highest level since last March - from a revised 544,000 in November. Housing starts in November were little changed.