We just got housing construction figures for March. Here's what the numbers showed:
* Housing starts rebounded 7.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 549,000 from 512,000 in February. That was a little bit better than the consensus forecast of 520,000. Building permit issuance gained even more -- 11.2% to a 594,000 SAAR from 534,000 in February.
* By property type, single family starts gained 7.7% while multifamily construction rose 5.8%. Single family permit issuance rose 5.7% while multifamily permitting spiked 25.2%.
* Regionally, starts rose in most of the country. They gained 5.4% in the Northeast, 27.6% in the West, and 32.3% in the Midwest. Starts fell 3.3% in the South. As for permits, the story was similar. Permit issuance was unchanged in the Northeast, but up 6.3% in the South, 6.9% in the Midwest, and 37.1% in the West.
The housing market tried to pick itself off the mat in March. Starts and permits both bounced after a dismal performance in February, with relatively widespread regional gains. But this tired old boxer isn't going to get back in the ring for a title bout anytime soon. Tougher mortgage qualification standards, competition from cheap "used" houses and condos, and the anemic economic rebound are all continuing to pressure new home builders. That will keep a lid on construction and permitting activity for the foreseeable future.