Single-family housing starts rose 1.6% in April from the level recorded in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.23 million units, according to new figures released Wednesday by the Commerce Department.However, compared with those of the same month last year, single-family starts fell significantly -- by 18.9%. Multifamily starts rose to 267,000 units, posting a 6.4% gain from the level recorded in March. "Housing starts in April were somewhat stronger than expected, though there were modest downward revisions to February and March," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist for RBS Greenwich Capital. "If one wanted to squint really hard, it would be literally correct to argue that starts have had a slight upward tilt to them in recent months, but the volatility in the monthly readings, much of which may be reflecting swings in the weather, argues for taking a longer view of the data."

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