The rate of early stage US home construction cooled at the start of this year, after a strong jump in the previous month, data released on Thursday showed.

New housing starts ticked lower by 2.6 per cent in January from December to an annualised rate of 1.25m units, the Commerce Department reported. That came on the heels of an 11.3 per cent rise in the previous month.

Meanwhile, permits to build new homes advanced by 4.6 per cent to a rate of 1.29m units.

Wall Street economists had expected a rate of 1.22m for starts, and 1.23m for permits.

The housing market has been strengthened by a prolonged period of historically low mortgage rates. However, price rises and tight inventories have put some pressure on it in recent months.

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