Home building

Workers construct a home in Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County. The 30-year mortgage rate averaged 4.52% as the year began and was 4.39% last week. (Sam Hodgson / Bloomberg)

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New home starts fell 9.9% in June driven largely by weakness in apartment building, an unexpected drop given that builders' confidence in the housing market is hitting highs not seen since the housing boom.

New residential construction has been in recovery this year as home prices, sales and rents have risen. Privately owned housing starts in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 836,000 units.

That 10% drop appears out of step with survey data showing builders are highly optimistic about the future. An index measuring builder confidence rose for the third consecutive month in July to its strongest level since January 2006, the National Assn. of Home Builders reported Tuesday.

Southern California's housing recovery: An interactive map

While June's housing start figure was a decline from the prior month, it was 10.4% higher t5han June 2012. Single-family home starts clocked in at an annual rate of 591,000 in June, an 0.8% decline from May.

Credit Suisse economists called the results a “disappointment,” but predicted that the declines would reverse themselves in coming months due to the volatility of apartment building.

“Fade the noise,” the economists wrote. “For now, the momentum in actual new homebuilding softened at the end of (the second quarter), but since the weakness was centered in the noisier part (multi-, not single-family), it likely won't be sustained.”

New permits for homes, another measure of home builder activity, also declined 7.5% from the prior month but were 16.1% above the same month a year ago. New permits were issued at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 911,000 permits last month.

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