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Dec. housing starts down 4.1% to 657,000

Dec. housing starts down 4.1% to 657,000 (by Greg Robb)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - New construction of U.S. houses retreated in December after a strong gain in the previous month, the Commerce Department estimated Thursday. Starts fell 4.1% in December to a seasonally adjusted 657,000 annualized units, weaker than the 695,000 pace expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. Starts had jumped 9.1% in November to 685,000. The decrease in December was due to a drop in the volatile multi-family component. For all of 2011, housing starts rose 3.4% to an annual pace of 606,900, up from 586,900 in 2010. Single-family starts hit a record low 428,600 in 2011.