Single-family housing starts jumped 13.1% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.678 million units, according to figures released Jan. 19 by the Commerce Department.Starts had fallen almost 11% in November from the level of the previous month. Analysts that cover the market blamed November's weak showing on near-record precipitation in the South and the West. December's reading was the second-best of the year. Multifamily housing starts rose during the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 291,000 units, a 2% gain from November. According to the government, 1.953 million housing units were started in 2004, a 5.7% gain from the previous year's total. Meanwhile, the National Association of Home Builders has forecast that the housing market will decline by 3% to 4% in 2005.

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