In a sign that a key sector of the economy remains vibrant, housing starts exceeded expectations in June, jumping 5.6% from May, to a 1.62 million annual rate, the Commerce Department said.

It was the highest figure for starts since February and the 10th consecutive month that starts were above the 1.5 million-unit level. Housing starts are 7.5% higher than a year earlier, said economist Karen Dexter of Merrill Lynch & Co., New York.

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