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New-home construction fell more than expected in May

A construction worker climbs on the roof of a home.A construction worker climbs on the roof of a home.
A construction worker climbs on the roof of a home.Joe Raedle--Getty Images

U.S. home construction dropped in May and building permits also posted a decline, signaling the housing market remains choppy months after a harsh winter hurt demand.

Housing starts slid 6.5% in May from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of just over 1 million, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Declines were fairly even for single-family homes and apartment buildings with five or more units. Newly authorized building permits totaled 991,000 on a seasonally adjusted annual rate in May, down 6.4% from April.

Observers had projected housing starts to total 1.04 million, while permits were projected at 1.06 million, according to a survey conducted by Bloomberg News.

The housing sector suffered a mixed performance earlier this year, which many attributed to the severe winter weather. That slowdown was worrisome heading into the key spring and summer home-buying seasons, though some metrics recently have suggested improvement. Builder confidence broadly improved in June, signaling some renewed confidence in the industry, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo.

Though the latest data may disappoint observers, some of the nation’s largest homebuilders have also reported sturdy results of late. Luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers (TOL) last month reported its fiscal second-quarter net income more than doubled due to broad growth across all regions. Lennar (LEN) also reported a jump in deliveries and new orders for its fiscal first quarter.

Lennar and KB Homes (KBH) are among the homebuilders reporting their quarterly results later this month.