The housing sector continued to show weakness in December with housing starts and building permits sinking to new record lows.

Housing starts fell to an annualized pace of 550k, representing a month-over-month decrease of 15.5%, according to data released from the U.S. Department of Commerce on Thursday morning.

The drop pushes the number of starts to a new record low, dating back to 1964.

The previous month's reading was revised down to 651k from a previously reported 625k. The consensus was looking for December to show a decline to 605k.

Single-family homes - the most important component in the report, accounting for four-fifths of housing starts - fell 13.5% to 398k, compared to the previous month's 460k. Single-family units have been falling for 19 of the past 20 months.

Multiple-family homes fell to 152k, compared to the previous month's 191k level.

Meanwhile, building permits fell to 549k in December, down from 615k in November. The consensus was looking for 600k permits.

Single-family permits fell 12.3% in the month to 363k in December from November's 414k. Multiple-family unit permits fell to 186k, down from 201k units in November.

By Erik Kevin Franco and edited by Stephen Huebl
©CEP News Ltd. 2009