Housing construction starts fell 4 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 557,000, down from 580,000 in November, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The decline reflected the bad weather in the Northeast and Midwest where construction starts declined 19 percent. They were down 1 percent in the West and rose 3 percent in the South.

Applications for new building permits rose 11 percent in December to an annual rate of 653,000, the highest level of activity since October 2008.

Overall, new-home construction is down 75 percent from the peak four years ago, but it is up 14 percent from last January when the industry hit bottom.

Source: Associated Press, Alan Zibel (10/20/2010)