Housing starts in January reached their highest rate in four months, increasing more than analysts expected, the Commerce Department reports. Housing starts jumped 14.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 596,000 units.

Housing starts in January were helped by a 77.7 percent jump in multi-family homes. Single-family home construction, on the other hand, fell 1 percent.

Meanwhile, new home completions dropped to a record low of 512,000 units in January, falling 9.5 percent from the previous month.

And after housing permits surged in December by 15.3 percent, housing permits for future housing projects sank in January. New building permits dropped 10.4 percent to a 562,000-unit pace in January--mostly pulled down by a drop in multi-family and single-family unit permits.

Source: “U.S. Housing Starts Surge in Jan., Permits Tumble,” Reuters News (Feb. 16, 2011)