Amid a trickle of economic reports like improved retail sales and declining credit card delinquency rates, most Wall Street analysts braced themselves for mixed real estate news, but the new home construction data released was welcomed. The AP announced Wednesday’s latest figures on the housing market and the good news spread quickly online.
According to the Department of Commerce, housing starts were up 2.8% in January to a seasonally adjusted 591,000 units, reversing a weather-related dip in December. The 21.1% year-over-year gain was the best monthly increase since April 2004.

Building permit applications dropped by 4.9% after two months of strong increases, but Burt White, chief investment officer for LPL Financial, said the disparity between the figures is likely a weather-related anomaly. Despite the volatility in housing data, the improvement points to a stronger economic backdrop. “It’s a good indication that Americans are beginning to reinvest again,” said White. “The biggest investment people make is in their homes.”

According to national FHA lenders, real estate financing continues to be supported by government loan programs like FHA, VA and Home Path, to name a few. Current mortgage interest rates remain at record levels with 30-year fixed rate mortgages still available below 5%. While the consumer won’t be at the fore of this recovery, housing starts did hit their highest level in six months–an indication that consumers are becoming more confident and comfortable with spending.