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Bringing up the house: groundbreaking for new US homes sped up in December to its fastest pace in over four years, according to the Commerce Department.

Housing starts increased 12.1 percent last month to an annual rate of 954,000, up from 851,000 in November. Construction of single-homes rose 8.1 percent in December, whereas work on multifamily homes, a more volatile portion of the market, shot up 20.3 percent, Commerce Department figures show.

For all of 2012, groundbreaking commenced on 780,000 houses, compared to 608,800 in 2011.

Homebuilder confidence was at its highest level into January since April 2006, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo reported Wednesday.

Building permits, an indicator for future construction, increased less than starts, suggesting that construction got a boost from unusually warm weather — last month logged the second-warmest December in US records as of 1958, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Starts may have gotten an assist from the unseasonably mild December weather,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. economist Daniel Silver said in a note to clients, Bloomberg reported. “But the housing data had clearly been improving prior to the unusual temperatures and most other housing indicators have remained upbeat lately. Our forecast still looks for solid growth in residential investment throughout 2013, though levels of activity should remain low by historic standards.”

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