Housing starts rose to the highest in almost six years (since February 2008) in November, coming in at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.091 million.  That was above the Thomson Reuters estimate of 950,000. The number of building permits issued, a reliable gauge of future housing activity, also surprised to the upside at 1.007 million versus the 990,000 estimate.

Today's report also included data for September and October, which had been delayed by the government shutdown.

Single-family housing starts, which account for around three-quarters of total home building, soared 21% in November to an annual rate of 727,000 -- the highest since March 2008.

Here's a look at housing starts that compares single-family and multi-family dwellings.  New home construction on building with five or more residences jumped to a 354,000-unit annualized rate in November, the highest since March.

This graphic illustrates the strong positive correlation between the issuance of building permits (a good indicator of future home sales) and the performance of homebuilder stocks:

As 2013 draws to a close, it's worth pointing out how homebuilder stocks have cooled off significantly since 2012 when the names below rose an average of 120%. This year, the average gain is only 1.7%, with six names in the red.

Homebuilder Stocks

 

Company

YTD

2012

(TPH)

TRI Pointe Homes, Inc.

n/a

n/a

(TMHC)

Taylor Morrison Home Corp.

n/a

n/a

(BZH)

Beazer Homes USA, Inc.

28.77%

75.40%

(BRP)

Brookfield Residential Properties

21.57%

179.26%

(MTH)

Meritage Homes Corporation

13.95%

83.53%

(SPF)

Standard Pacific Corp.

9.25%

152.52%

(KBH)

KB Home

7.72%

153.27%

(RYL)

The Ryland Group, Inc.

6.88%

147.53%

(NVR)

NVR, Inc.

5.24%

41.13%

(TOL)

Toll Brothers, Inc.

3.31%

63.57%

(PHM)

PulteGroup, Inc.

-0.77%

185.58%

(DHI)

D.R. Horton, Inc.

-4.40%

49.96%

(LEN)

Lennar Corporation Class A

-8.97%

79.13%

(MHO)

M/I Homes, Inc.

-15.66%

132.81%

(MDC)

M.D.C. Holdings, Inc.

-21.49%

63.70%

(HOV)

Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc.

-21.57%

278.62%