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News In Brief

Surge in housing starts stuns, troubles the experts

In a stunning acceleration, housing starts leaped 11.2 percent in February to their highest level in nearly six years, to a rate of 2.2 million units a year for new residential construction, the government said Friday.

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The latest report also showed more strength in January, a 16.7 percent increase. The new data confounded industry analysts, most of whom considered the figures announced last month to be overstated.

But the renewed housing boom is viewed as something of a mixed blessing by many analysts on Wall Street and elsewhere. They fear the economy is becoming overheated, part of a growing strain on credit and capacity that could pressure interest rates upward and eventually rekindle high inflation.

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