WASHINGTON — Housing starts fell 1.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 698,000 in February from an upwardly revised 706,000 in January, originally reported as 699,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

The upward revision in the January starts made it the highest level since October 2008, when the seasonally adjusted annual rate was 777,000, the department reported.

Building permits climbed 5.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 717,000 last month from the upwardly revised January rate of 682,000, originally reported as 676,000.

February housing starts were just below the median 700,000 projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, and were 34.7% above the February 2011 rate of 518,000.

Building permits for February were above the median 690,000 projected by the economists and were 34.3% above the February 2011 level of 534,000.

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