U.S. housing starts surge 39.2% year over year in February

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Although housing starts in the U.S. in February declined compared with January, they rose 39.2% compared with starts in January 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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Privately owned housing starts reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.60 million in February, down 1.5% from January but up 39.2% from February 2019.

Single‐family housing starts in February reached a rate of 1.10 million, up 6.7% from the revised January figure of 1.01 million. Meanwhile, the February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 508,000, according to the Census Bureau and HUD.

Building permits drop 5.5% from January

Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in February reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.46 million, which marked a 5.5% decline from January but a 13.8% increase compared with February 2019.

Single‐family authorizations in February hit a rate of 1.00 million, up 1.7% from January’s 987,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more reached a rate of 415,000.

Housing completions down slightly from January

As for privately owned housing completions, those reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.32 million in February, down 0.2% from the previous month and down 1.2% from February 2019.

Single‐family housing completions in February reached a rate of 1.03 million, up 14.1% from the revised January rate of 900,000. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 280,000.

Rebar … a safe haven?

In construction news elsewhere, amid an economic downturn in large part stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese investors have increasingly leaned on steel rebar as a safe-haven asset, Bloomberg reported.

This trends follows on the heels of a drop in gold prices over the last month. Bloomberg notes the gold price in the Shanghai market has fallen 5% over the last month, while the rebar price has surged 5%.

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As a result, investors seem to be banking on the fact that Beijing will likely enact stimulus measures that will fuel use of basic construction materials like rebar.

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