US housing starts soared 11% in April to an annualised rate of 2.04 million units, according to the Commerce Department figures today. The figure was stronger than the 2 million rate expected on Wall Street and a sign of a still-hot US real estate market.

The rebound came after an unexpected 17.6% drop of housing starts in March. On a year-over-year basis, the April figure is 3.6% higher than the 1.968 million-unit pace reported in April 2004.

Building permits for new housing rose 5.3% to a 2.13 million annual rate. This is the biggest monthly increase since December 2002.

The government cautions that the housing data are subject to large sampling and other statistical errors. It can take five months for a trend in housing starts to emerge from the data.

The surging housing market has led to fears of a real-estate bubble, which in the event of a sudden collapse, could send shock waves through the economy. But analysts say there are few signs of an imminent collapse in the US housing market.