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Jan. housing starts up 14.6% to 596,000

Jan. housing starts up 14.6% to 596,000 (by Greg Robb)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - New construction of U.S. houses rose to its highest level in four months in January, the Commerce Department estimated Wednesday. Starts rose 14.6% in January to a seasonally adjusted 596,000 annualized units, stronger than the 520,000 pace expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. This is the highest level of starts since September. Building permits, a leading indicator of housing construction, fell 10.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 562,000. This follows a 15.3% jump in permits in December as builders rushed to avoid building code changes in several key states including California.