Led by a dramatic decline in building activity in the Northeast, single-family housing starts fell 2.3% in February to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.8 million units, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.The decline reflects sequential activity. Compared with those of a year earlier, starts fell nationwide by 0.4%. The biggest decline occurred in the Northeast, where starts on one- to four-family units fell 20%. Nationwide, multifamily construction fell by a whopping 36.5%, to 275,000 units. Starts in the West bucked the trend, rising almost 8%. David Pressly, president of the National Association of Home Builders, said builder confidence remained unchanged in March, but noted that rising rates and a decline in "short-term investors" is hurting business.

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