Nationwide housing starts rose for a third consecutive month in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 626,000 units from an upwardly revised February number, according to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department.

The rate of permit issuance for new housing construction also rose by a solid 7.5 percent in the month, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000 units.

While single-family starts slipped 0.9 percent in March, this small decline – from an upwardly revised number the previous month – was due entirely to a drop-off in the Midwest from an abnormally high February level, according to the National Association of Home Builders. All other regions reported single-family gains in March. Nationwide multifamily starts gained 18.8 percent to a 95,000-unit rate for the month.

Additionally, builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes improved significantly in April as consumers rushed to take advantage of home buyer tax credits set to expire at the end of the month, according to results of the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The HMI surged four points to 19 in April, its highest level since September of 2009.

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