Housing starts and permits to build new homes both fell in February as winter storms in some parts of the country disrupted home building, a government report showed on Tuesday.
The Commerce Department said housing starts fell 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 575,000 units, reversing the prior month's gain.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected housing starts to fall to 570,000 units. January's housing starts were revised upwards to 611,000 units from the previously reported 591,000. Compared to February last year, starts were up 0.2 percent.
Groundbreaking for single-family homes fell 0.6 percent last month to an annual rate of 499,000 units after rising 4.4 percent in January. Starts for the volatile multifamily segment fell 30.3 percent to a 76,000-unit annual pace after advancing 18.5 percent in January.
The government-led housing market recovery from a three-year slump is showing signs of hesitancy, but analysts reckon an improvement in the labor market and the broader economic picture will prevent another collapse in the sector.
Home-builder sentiment slipped this month on worries over lack of credit for new projects and a wave of distressed properties hitting the market. Such properties typically sell below value and could crowd out the market for new homes.
New building permits, which give a sense of future home construction, fell 1.6 percent to a 612,000-unit pace last month, dropping for a second straight month, the Commerce Department said.
That compared to analysts' forecasts for 610,000 units.
(Reporting by Neil Stempleman; Editing by James Dalgleish)