US housing starts fell in March still stronger than in 2016

WASHINGTON – U.S. builders broke ground on fewer homes in March, but the pace of construction so far this year remains stronger than in 2016.Housing starts fell 6.8 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.22 million, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The setback came after strong gains in a warmer-than-usual February. Groundbreakings on new homes are still 8.1 per cent higher through the first three months of this year compared with 2016.More Americans are seeking homes as job security has improved with low unemployment. But even with a wave of construction, a dwindling supply of new and existing homes across much of the country has threatened to become a major drag on the housing market.Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, suggested that the March decline was likely temporary.“Is it the start of a trend? Likely not, given the strong demand for housing and the low levels of inventory to choose from,” Lee said.Despite a winter storm last month, housing starts increased in the Northeast largely because of apartment construction. The pace of groundbreakings tumbled in the Midwest, South and West.The March decline was likely due in part to an unseasonably temperate January and February, which allowed builders to begin construction earlier.“Much warmer-than-usual weather in the first two months of the year pulled starts forward into those months, and March — with more normal temperatures — saw the payback with declines in both single- and multifamily construction,” said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Mutual Insurance.During the first three months of this year, construction of buildings with at least five units — mainly apartment complexes — has climbed 14.1 per cent. Single-family housing starts have risen 5.9 per cent.More properties will likely begin construction in the coming months. Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 3.6 per cent in March to an annual rate of 1.26 million.U.S. homebuilders expect rising sales, though they have become somewhat less optimistic. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday dipped to 68 this month from 71 in March. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as favourable rather than poor. The index has been above 60 since September.But strengthening demand and builder sentiment have yet to generate enough construction to sufficiently boost the availability of homes. That trend could temper sales growth and weaken affordability, in part because the shortage of homes has pushed up prices.There were 266,000 new homes for sale last month, up nearly 10 per cent from a year earlier. But sales of new homes rose 13 per cent over the past year.Purchases of existing homes have also increased. Yet sales listings of existing homes dropped 6.4 per cent over the past year to 1.75 million properties in February, a figure only slightly higher than in January when listings were at an all-time low. US housing starts fell in March; still stronger than in 2016 by Josh Boak, The Associated Press Posted Apr 18, 2017 6:46 am MDT Last Updated Apr 18, 2017 at 10:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

UN applauds historic deal on Iranian nuclear programme

The United Nations has welcomed the agreement reached between international negotiators and the Government of Iran as the two parties pave the way for a viable solution on the Gulf country’s nuclear programme and towards possible peace in the region. Describing the deal between Tehran and the so-called ‘E3+3’ as “historic” in a statement earlier this morning, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded all parties for their resolution of the long-standing diplomatic negotiations as “a testament to the value of dialogue.” “I know that an immense amount of work went into this and I admire the determination and the commitment of the negotiators as well as the courage of the leaders who approved the deal that was so painstakingly worked out by their teams in Vienna and elsewhere,” Mr. Ban declared from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is currently attending the UN’s Third International Conference on Financing for Development. “I hope, and indeed believe, that this agreement will lead to greater mutual understanding and cooperation on the many serious security challenges in the Middle East.” In addition, the Secretary-General lauded both the ‘E3+3’ – composed of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States and more commonly labelled as the ‘P5+1’ – and Iran for their “vital contribution” in laying the foundation towards a more peaceful and stable future for both the region and the world. The UN, he concluded, would stand ready “to fully cooperate” with the parties as they proceeded in the implementation of the “historic and important agreement.” Representatives of the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran at the historic nuclear agreement sealed in Vienna. Credit: UNIS Vienna ‹ › In a similarly toned statement issued in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General, Yukiya Amano, also congratulated Iran and the ‘E3+3’ for having reached a positive conclusion to their “many months of tireless negotiations.” As a result of the agreement, the IAEA will now be asked to monitor and verify the nuclear-related measures set out by all parties as part of the UN agency’s ongoing verification process of the Iranian nuclear programme. Among the additional measures the agency has adopted in partnership with Iran and in light of today’s agreement is a ‘Road-map for the Clarification of Past & Present Outstanding Issues regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme’ which, the Director-General said, would help the IAEA establish “an understanding of the whole picture” concerning Iran’s nuclear issues. The newly created Road-map would require Iran to provide written explanations to the IAEA by 15 August regarding a number of outstanding issues that have yet to be resolved. “I am confident in our ability to do this important work,” Mr. Amano confirmed. “The IAEA stands ready to undertake the necessary monitoring and verification activities when requested.” Against that backdrop, the new UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, celebrated the deal as the beginning of the end of the strict sanction regime to which Iran has been bound for years – sanctions which also included a number of “additional, unilateral coercive measures decided by a number of States individually or in the framework of various regional organizations.” “The stockpiling of sanctions and unilateral coercive measures against Iran, some of which went well beyond what was required by the Security Council, has had a significant adverse effect on the country’s economy, its population and ultimately on the enjoyment of human rights of the people of Iran, including its right to food, its right to health and its right to development,” the independent expert declared in a press release. In particular, Mr. Jazairy pointed the “indiscriminate character” of measures such as the ban on the use of international interbank financial telecommunications or of measures which ultimately impeded access to medicine and medical treatment. “When a group of diverse targeted unilateral coercive measures converge on the same country, the outcome may become a comprehensive coercive measure,” he concluded, adding that he hoped nuclear agreement was “a vessel of a trend” of things to come. “We are witnesses of the fact that change is possible.” read more