Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 16:19 UK

US housebuilding at 16-month high as repossessions rise

US House
Repossessions continue to be a drag on the US economy

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.


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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