Dec. 19 - U.S. housing starts dipped for the first time in three months, but the housing sector is set to strengthen further next year as permits for future building reaches a 4-1/2 year high. Bobbi Rebell reports.
The housing industry continues to dig its way out. U.S. home building permits- a sign of building to come- touched their highest level in nearly 4-1/2 years. It was well above expectations. Also encouraging: builders' confidence in the market for new single-family homes reached its highest level this month- since April of 2006. The news overshadowed data showing housing starts fell more than expected after three months of solid gains. The quality of the housing recovery has been broad- including sales, home building and prices. And next year is going to be even bigger according to Toll Brothers Chairman Robert Toll: SOUNDBITE: ROBERT TOLL, CHAIRMAN, TOLL BROTHERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I would bet that prices are going to go up almost 20% by the end of '13 and by the end of '14 another 25 or 30 percent and by the end of '15 another 20 or 30 percent." Shares of the major builders have soared this year- with Toll Brothers up 58 percent year to date- and rivals jumping even more. Big companies like Toll Brothers have had access to capital- and are poised to profit according to Fitch Managing Director Robert Curran: SOUNDBITE: ROBERT CURRAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, FITCH (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The big public companies have typically been able to access the capital markets over recent years and this year and at the moment seem to have adequate liquidity relative to the kind of spending patterns they have been realizing during 2012 and expected for 2013." Curran says next year there will be fewer foreclosures- because there aren't as many mortgages "underwater". And prices will continue to rise he says- as supply levels of existing homes fall.