12-month rolling total of starts.

Noise aside, the Census Bureau's report yesterday on housing starts and permits, was a solid positive. That said, most of the "noise" comes from looking at the data in a sequential, month to month to month pattern, rather than an appropriate, year over year comparison.

Here, Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin argues, convincingly, that the 12-month rolling total gives a fairer view of the housing market trend, and a less distracting one than the month-to-month comparison. It's not all good news, but it's probably more helpful. McLaughlin writes:

The 12-month rolling total of starts ­ which is a more statistically robust measure of trends in housing start data ­ grew 9.4% year-over-year in January to 1,111,900 starts. This represents the most starts in a 12-month period since July 2008, despite a dip in home building sentiment reported yesterday by the NAHB. The dip in confidence was less likely due to a lack of demand for new homes, and more likely related to uncertainty over the health of the global economy. Though the upward trend is good news for the housing sector, the 12-month rolling total is still 23% below a 50-year average of 1,445,779 starts.

For additional insight into the whys, wherefores, and smart takes on the housing starts and permits data from yesterday, including a good look at the role multifamily starts and completions plays in the unevenness of the data, here's Calculated Risk's Bill McBride, with commentary.

Too, here National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert Dietz notes that "for the single-family sector, there are currently 421,000 units under construction. This is 15% higher than the measure from January 2015."

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