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--April Building Permits Rises 0.6% to 1.296m SAAR
--Initial Jobless Claims Fall 16,000 to 212,000 in May 11 Week
By Kevin Kastner and Harrison Clarke
     WASHINGTON (MNI) - The pace of housing starts rose by 5.7% to a 
1.235 million seasonally adjusted annual rate in April, above 
expectations for a 1.200 million rate according to an MNI survey of 
analysts and a 1.209 million rate according to the Bloomberg consensus, 
data reported by the Commerce Department Thursday morning indicated. 
     Also released at the same time, the level of initial claims fell by 
16,000 to 212,000 in the May 11 week, below the 220,000 level expected 
by both MNI and Bloomberg and returning to trend after sharp movements 
in recent weeks. 
     Here are some of the key takeaways from the data released Friday: 
     - Housing starts rose 84.6% in the Northeast and 42.0% in the 
Midwest, more than recovering declines in the previous month. Starts 
fell by 5.7% in the relatively large South region, and were down 5.5% in 
the West, providing some offset. 
     - Single-family housing starts rose by 6.2% in April after a 1.5% 
increase in the previous month, while multi-family starts were up 4.7% 
in April, based on an MNI calculation. This followed gains in both 
categories in the previous month. 
     - Building permits rose by 0.6% in the month to a 1.296 million 
rate after a 0.2% decline to 1.288 million in March. However, 
single-family permits fell by 4.2% to a 782,000 annual rate, the slowest 
since November 2016. Multi-family permits rose by 8.9%. Homes permitted 
but not started were up 2.6% in April, suggesting housing starts could 
rise in the near future, though the entire gain was in the multi-family 
category. 
     - Homes under construction fell by 0.9% in April, while completions 
were down 1.4%, both following March declines. The fall-off in starts 
and permits starting in fourth quarter of 2018 should continue to cut 
into the pace of completions more forcefully in the coming months. 
     - The April starts pace was above the first quarter average of 
1.203 million after revisions are included. The April rate for permits 
was just below the 1.299 million first quarter average. Annual revisions 
back to 2014 were included in the data. 
     - The four-week moving average for initial jobless claims rose by 
4,750 to 225,000 in the May 11 week due to the decades-low level of 
193,000 in the April 13 week dropping out of the equation. After four 
straight increases, the average is likely to stabilize or decline in the 
coming weeks as elevated levels in the April 20 through May 4 weeks roll 
out. 
     - Unadjusted claims fell by 16,344 to 187,689, putting the current 
week's level below the 195,214 level in the comparable week a year 
earlier after three weeks above it. As noted in an MNI analysis 
published Wednesday, the May-July period is often impacted by seasonal 
adjustment timing issues. 
     - The level of continuing claims fell by 28,000 to 1.660 million in 
the May 4 week after rising by 17,000 in the previous week. Continuing 
claims have remained solidly below their year-ago levels. 
     ** MNI Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 **
[TOPICS: MAUDS$,M$U$$$,MT$$$$]