There are still few signs of recovery in the US housing market
The number of new homes built in the US fell to a record low in April, official statistics have shown.
New housing starts fell 12.8% to an annual rate of 458,000 units - the lowest since records began in 1959 - the Commerce Department said.
The fall was steeper than expected with experts forecasting a fall to 520,000 from March's revised rate of 525,000.
New building permits, which signal future home construction, fell 3.3% to an annual rate of 494,000 units.
Compared with the same month last year, housing starts were down 54.2% and permits down 50.2%.
Analysts were surprised by the weak numbers.
"It's just as I said a month ago - I can't imagine that housing starts and permits can get much weaker than they are. And you wait a month and they get weaker," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at Johnson Illington Advisors.
"It's almost as though there are no new houses being built. It almost takes your breath away.
"How do you describe conditions that are this weak and I'm not sure I can find a word that's strong enough."