US house building soars

The number of houses being built in
the US
rose faster in March than expected, taking the construction rate to its highest
level in 16 months.

But the figures from the US
Commerce Department also showed that the building of single-family homes fell
0.9% to 531,000 new builds a year.

The data is a key indicator of
economic activity, but single-family building is the most closely-watched
segment.

Overall, 626,000 new houses were
built in the last 12 months.

This was higher than the 610,000
forecast by some economists.

The Commerce Department also said
that applications for building permits, another barometer of activity, rose by
a better-than-expected 7.5% to 685,000.

Foreclosures

Meanwhile data released by research
company RealtyTrac revealed that the number of homes repossessed by banks
surged 35% in the first quarter from a year, compared with the same period last
year.

In March, filings for repossession
rose 8% to the highest level since RealtyTrac began publishing reports in
January 2005.

Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac’s executive
vice president, said a reason for the sharp rise is that banks put a stay of
executive on foreclosures when the market was at its worst during the recession.

“The banks are finally working
through it,” he said. “We’re seeing a resolution for properties that
were in foreclosure but where seizure was delayed.”

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