January housing starts fall off the table ... again
* Total housing starts plunged 16.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 466,000, down from a revised 560,000 in December. Building permits dropped 4.8% to 521,000 from 547,000. Economists were expecting 529,000 starts and 525,000 permits.
* Housing construction activity has now plunged 79.5% from its January 2006 peak (2.273 million), while permit activity has dropped 77% from its September 2005 high (2.263 million). These are the lowest readings in the history of the Census Bureau data, which goes back to 1959.
* By property type, single family starts slipped 12.2% from December, while multifamily starts plunged 27.9%. Single family permits were down 8%, while multifamily permits inched up 1.6%.
* Regionally speaking, starts dropped in all four sectors of the country -- down 42.9% in the Northeast, down 29.3% in the Midwest, down 12.8% in the South and down 6.4% in the West. Permits also fell in all four quadrants -- off 3.3% in the Northeast, down 2.4% in the Midwest, down 6.9% in the South, and down 1.8% in the West.