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US housing starts rise in positive sign for economy

WASHINGTON -- Groundbreaking on new U.S. homes surged in September to its fastest pace in more than four years, a sign the housing sector's budding recovery is gaining traction and supporting the wider economic recovery.

Housing starts increased 15 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000 units, beating even the most optimistic forecasts on Wall Street, Commerce Department data showed on Wednesday.

It was the quickest pace of groundbreaking since July 2008, though data on starts is volatile and subject to substantial revisions.

America's economy has shown signs of faster growth in recent months as the jobless rate has fallen and retail sales data has pointed to stronger consumer spending.

Wednesday's data showed that housing, which was battered by the 2007-09 recession, is increasingly one of the brighter spots in the economy.

“One of the big headwinds for the economy has been the weak housing market and this indicates that headwind has dissipated,” said Gary Thayer, an economic strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis, Missouri.

Home building could add to growth this year for the first time since 2005 and the brighter economic signal is likely to be welcomed at the White House, where a sluggish economy is weighing on President Barack Obama's chances of re-election next month.

Economists estimate that for every new house built, at least three new jobs are created.

Groundbreaking on new homes rose across much of the country, and was up 20.1 percent in western states. It fell 5.1 percent in the Northeast, however.

Yields on U.S. government debt rose as investors bet the data pointed to a stronger economy.

On the U.S. stock market, the PHLX Housing Index of leading home builders climbed 4 percent as D.R. Horton advanced 5 percent. Home improvement retailers Home Depot and Lowe's were also higher.

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A group of row houses are under construction in Chicago, Illinois on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Groundbreaking on new U.S. homes surged in September to its fastest pace in more than four years, a sign the housing sector's budding recovery is gaining traction and supporting the wider economic recovery. (AP)

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