The U.S. housing sector showed greater than expected weakness in March, with both housing starts and building permits both falling further than expectations.

Housing starts fell to an annualized pace of 510k, representing a month-over-month decrease of 10.8%, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce on Thursday morning.

The consensus was looking for starts to decline to 540k. The previous month's reading was revised down to 572k from a previously reported 583k.

Single-family homes - the most important component in the report, accounting for four-fifths of housing starts - were unchanged at 358k while multiple-family homes fell to 152k, compared to the previous month's 214k level.

Meanwhile, building permits fell to 513k in March, down from 564k in February. The consensus was looking for 549k building permits.

Single-family permits fell 7.4% in the month to 361k in March from February's 390k. Multiple-family unit permits fell to 152k, up from 174k units in February.