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/ Source: Reuters
Housing starts slipped in December, but less than expected, government data show.Nam Y. Huh / AP

U.S. housing starts fell less than expected in December, pausing after sizzling gains that had pushed home building activity to multi-year highs.

The Commerce Department said on Friday groundbreaking dropped 9.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 999,000-unit pace. It was the largest percentage decline since April.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected starts to fall to a 990,000-unit rate in December. For all of 2013, starts increased 18.3 percent to an average of 923,400-units.

Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, fell 7.0 percent to a 667,000-unit pace in December. Starts for the volatile multi-family homes segment declined 14.9 percent to a 332,000-unit rate.

-Reuters