By Jeffry Bartash
The numbers: Construction on new houses fell 4.2% in October as high mortgage rates put off buyers and forced builders to scale back, a situation that’s likely to continue through 2023.
U.S. housing starts slowed to an annual pace of 1.43 million last month from 1.49 million in September. That figure reflects how many homes would be built in 2022 if construction took place at same rate over the entire year as it did in October.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected housing starts to register a rate of 1.41 million after adjusting for the typical seasonal swings in demand.
New construction hit a record 1.8 million in April before tapering off.
Permits foreshadow how many houses are likely to be built in the months ahead, assuming a stable real estate market. But a major increase in mortgage rates this year has depressed demand and forced builders to scale back plans.
Key details: Single-family home construction fell 6.1% to an annual rate of 855,000 in October. Projects with five units or more registered a 556,000 rate, little changed from the prior month.
Housing starts are down 9% from a year ago, when mortgage rates briefly dipped below 3%.
Permits have fallen 10% from a year earlier.
Big picture: The highest mortgage rates in several decades have stifled new construction and are likely to do so through the next year or longer. The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage recently topped 7%, more than double the rate a year ago.
While the U.S. has an acute need for more housing, fewer people can now afford to buy a home. Home prices are starting to come off record highs, but not by much.
Looking ahead: “Higher mortgage rates continue to exact a heavy toll on new construction,” said Richard Moody, chief economist of Regions Financial.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 fell in Thursday trades.