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N.Z. Building Permits Little Changed Near 4 1/2-Year High

Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealand building approvals were little changed in January, remaining near the highest in more than 4 1/2 years, amid record-low borrowing costs and increasing demand in Auckland, the nation’s largest city.

Permits for dwellings fell 0.4 percent to 1,557 in January from 1,564 in December, which was the highest since May 2008, Statistics New Zealand said in Wellington. Excluding apartments, approvals rose 9.6 percent from December.

Increases in planned construction add to signs of a revival in the property market. A shortage of properties in Auckland and rebuilding in Christchurch city and the surrounding Canterbury district after earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 is stoking demand. Central bank Governor Graeme Wheeler will probably keep rates unchanged at 2.5 percent until the fourth quarter, according to 13 of 16 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

“Housing market pressures are encouraging stronger house building demand” in Christchurch and Auckland, Jane Turner, an economist at ASB Bank Ltd. in Auckland, said in a note earlier this week. “We expect demand will continue to lift over 2013 in light of the more acute housing market pressures in these regions.”

Economists expected a 2 percent drop, according to the median of five forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. New Zealand’s dollar was little changed after the report, buying 82.73 U.S. cents at 10:48 a.m. in Wellington.

New Zealand’s effective home-lending rate in December was the lowest since records began in 1998, according to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. The central bank has kept the official cash rate at 2.5 percent since March 2011.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

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