US Housing Starts Data Underperforms; Jobless Claims Rise

Someone 'signing on'

By Lucia Mutikani

(Reuters) - U.S. housing starts rose far less than expected in March and permits recorded their biggest drop since last May, which could raise concerns about the economy's ability to bounce back from a soft patch hit in the first quarter.

The economy stumbled at the start of the year under the weight of a harsh winter, a resurgent dollar, weaker global growth and a now-resolved labor dispute at the West Coast ports.

There are expectations that growth will rebound in the second quarter, but the tepid housing starts report and a struggling manufacturing sector suggest the momentum will probably not be strong enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates before September.