The stock market had a nice gain again today after the Commerce Dept. released data that said housing starts jumped 22% in February, breaking the longest series of declines in 18 years.
Construction began on what works out to be an annual rate of 583,000 homes. Most of the construction activity was linked to apartment buildings. Other data including building permits did not show anywhere near that kind of increase. The numbers could have been a fluke. Or it could be a sign than the bottom of the housing bust may finally be at hand.
Home builder shares took off. Troubled Beazer Homes saw its stock jump 50%, although from 50 cents to 75 cents.
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.