Groundbreaking for new U.S. home construction was down 4.0% in December to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 557,000, while private housing permits rose 10.9% to a rate of 653,000, according to Commerce Department data released yesterday.

Commerce also reported that for all of 2009, housing starts fell a record 38.8% to 553,800 units from 905,500 units in 2008.

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