Winter storms slowed new home construction in February, the latest blow for a housing market that remains strained by foreclosures and tight credit.

Housing starts tumbled 5.9% in February from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 575,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Single-family home starts decreased 0.6% from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 499,000, while ground-breakings on apartments with two or more units slid 30.3% to 76,000. Within the multifamily category, starts of homes with five or more units registered their biggest drop since January 1994, falling 43.1% to a 58,000 annual rate.

Wall Street Journal