WASHINGTON — Housing starts fell 8.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 890,000 in January from a revised level of 973,000 the previous month, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

December starts were originally reported at 954,000.

January building permits rose 1.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 925,000 from the previous month's rate of 909,000 originally reported as 903,000. The January permit mark was the highest since June 2008, when a pace of 1.18 million authorizations was reported.

January starts fell well short of the 925,000 projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, but were 23.6% above the January 2012 rate of 720,000. January permits surpassed the economists' median projection of 915,000, and the January permit figure was 35.2% above the estimate of 684,000 a year ago.

Regionally, housing starts figures were mixed. They climbed 16.7% in the West and 4.1% in the South, but plunged 50% in the Midwest and 35.3% in the Northeast.

Building permits showed more solid regional growth. They rose 10.1% in the Northeast, and 1.4% in the Midwest, as well as 1.1% in the South. Permits slipped 0.5% in the West.

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