Housing starts slumped in March by the most since 1984

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New-home construction declined in March from the previous month by the most since 1984 as the pandemic started to take a bigger toll on the housing market and broader economy.

Residential starts tumbled 22.3% to a 1.22 million annualized rate, an eight-month low, according to a government report released Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 1.3 million pace. Applications to build, a proxy for future construction, fell 6.8% to a 1.35 million rate.

The slowdown marks a dramatic reversal for the housing industry, which had been firing on all cylinders before stay-at-home orders imposed to arrest the coronavirus sent unemployment skyrocketing and much of the economy into deep freeze.

Single-family starts fell to an annualized pace of 856,000, the slowest since May.

Sentiment among builders plunged the most in 30 years of record-keeping, according to a Wednesday report on the monthly National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The S&P's index of homebuilder stocks has lost more than 33% this year.

Bloomberg News