Housing starts shot up 22.2% from January's all-time low to an annualized 583,000 units, the Commerce Department said — thanks to a spike in new apartment and condo activity. Analysts expected another fall. Starts were still down 47.3% vs. a year ago.
Building permits, a future activity gauge, rose 3% to a 547,000-unit rate, 44.2% below a year ago.
The housing data, along with higher retail sales excluding autos in January-February, give optimists some hope that the recession, which began in December 2007, may be starting to ease.
Pessimists note that single-family starts — up just 1.1% — are essentially at record lows, consumer spending has been helped by one-time factors, and industrial activity shows no glimmer of recovery.
Please. One month does not a trend reversal make. We need a lot more data before we even think about making that call. Just take a look at the chart above. Does that look like its a bottom?