Construction of new homes in the United States fell for the second straight month in June as builders erected fewer apartments in the West and South, according to data released Wednesday.
And the pace looked set to slow even further as permits for new construction of much needed homes took an unexpected tumble to the lowest in just over two years, also led by steep drops in the West and South.
The housing sector is a key segment of the US economy, helping drive consumer spending and serving as one barometer of economic wellbeing.
But while construction was marginally stronger in the second quarter than at the start of the year, it is not keeping pace with demand.
The Commerce Department reported that home construction fell 0.9 percent in June compared to May, dropping to an annual rate of 1.25 million, seasonally adjusted. That fell short of economists’ expectations and was more than six percent below June of last year..
Permits for new construction projects fell six percent, to the lowest level since May 2017, and 6.6 percent below the year-ago level.
The weakness for permits was all in the volatile apartments segment, however, which plunged nearly 21 percent in the months and is 13 percent below June 2018.
Officials warn the monthly data are subject to broad margins of error and say six months should elapse before a trend can be established.
Despite low unemployment, rising wages and falling mortgage rates, sentiment among homebuilders in the United States has been tame in recent months. Analysts blame labor shortages and rising costs for materials.
Economists said the housing market was likely to pickup in later in the year to meet pent-up demand.
Amid rising mortgage applications, “we expect home sales to reach new highs in the late summer or early fall, dragging up housing construction in due course,” Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said in a research note.
UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report
Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.
The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.
A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.
But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.
‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys
In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.
"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.
The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.
"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."
Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors
A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.
The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.
"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.
The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.