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By Sophia Rodrigues
     SYDNEY (MNI) - Dwelling approvals rose sharply in January, recouping most
of the big fall the month before, as multi-unit approvals recorded the biggest
monthly rise in five years.
     Data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Monday showed
dwelling approvals rose 17.1% m/m in January, beating expectations for a 3.5%
increase. The outcome was well outside the range predicted by economists in MNI
poll.
     The latest rise led to an increase in trend growth to a small positive of
0.1% in January, after three months of decline.
     Dwelling approvals have been volatile in the past year, with double-digit
rise or fall recorded in five months out of the last 12. 
     In value terms, total buildings approved rose 2.7% m/m in January as
residential building approvals rose 18.3% but non-residential fell 20.7%. 
     Overall, the data shows that while dwelling investment may have peaked, it
is unlikely to make any significant detraction from growth any time soon.
However, it also means that rising dwelling supply could become a headwind for
the economy because of its impact on house prices and rents, and thus to
household spending and inflation.
     From building-approvals data for January published by the Australian Bureau
of Statistics on Monday:
                                          January                       December
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                             (M/M% unless stated;           (M/M% unless stated;
                             seasonally adjusted)           seasonally adjusted)
Dwelling Units
Approved                                    +17.1      -20.6(revised from -20.0)
MNI Median              +3.5 (Range 0.0 to +11.0)
Dwelling Units
Approved (Trend)                             +0.1                           +0.1
Dwelling Units
Approved Y/Y                                +12.0     -5.5(last month's release)
Private Houses                               -1.1                           +1.4
Private Units
Excluding Houses                            +42.2                          -39.7
--MNI Sydney Bureau; tel: +61 2-9716-5467; email: sophia.rodrigues@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MTABLE,MALDA$,MALDS$,MMLRB$,M$A$$$,M$L$$$,MT$$$$]