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Bottoms, Floors and Not A Lot Being Built

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Looking at March construction data released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Los Angeles Times reports that ground-breaking of single family homes (nationwide) was essentially flat (and follow two months of similar figures), a relatively positive sign to some experts. On the other hand, the number of new apartments that started construction fell 51 percent from a year earlier. Lumping together both apartment and single family construction, groundbreakings in the West were down 67 percent from a year earlier and down 26 percent from February. But there seems to be a sentiment that a faster fall to the bottom means a faster recovery. Speaking generally about the new construction, David Crowe, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders, believes the recovery will start in the second half of 2009, telling the paper: "We are closing on the bottom." Referencing the overall nationwide housing starts of 510,000 houses and apartment buildings, Kurt Karl, chief U.S. economist at Swiss Re in New York, tells Reuters: "It's disappointing. Half a million in starts is real low. Things are hitting the floor. I think it will turnaround over the next few months." [LA Times/Reuters]