Canadian building permits unexpectedly fell in March on lower demand to construct apartment buildings in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia -- home to the Toronto and Vancouver real-estate markets, respectively.
The total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities in March declined 5.8% to 7.00 billion Canadian dollars ($5.11 billion), Statistics Canada said Tuesday. Expectations were for a 2.8% rise, according to economists at Royal Bank of Canada.
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The previous month's building-permits data were revised lower, and now suggest permits fell 2.8% versus the earlier estimate of a 2.5% decline.
Building permits are meant to provide an early indication of construction activity in Canada and are based on a survey of 2,400 municipalities, representing 95% of the country's population. A permit gives a contractor the right to build but does not necessarily suggest construction has commenced.
On a year-over-year basis, permits issued rose 1.5%. Building-permit data tend to be volatile on a month-over-month basis.
In the March report, the value of residential permits fell 8.4%, led by a 20.9% drop in permits to build multifamily dwellings such as apartment buildings and row houses. The data agency said the drop in multifamily permits was particularly acute in Vancouver, the country's third-largest city and home to one of the country's most expensive housing markets.
Meanwhile, nonresidential permits edged downward 0.5%, weighed down by a decrease in demand to build commercial real estate.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 09, 2017 09:01 ET (13:01 GMT)