WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Construction on new U.S. homes dropped 2% in January to an annual rate of 1.07 million units, as heavy snowfall hindered builders in some regions such as the Midwest and Northeast. Permits also declined slightly but indicated that the pace of construction is likely to remain at or near current levels heading into the spring, according to Commerce Department data issued Wednesday. The level of housing starts in January matched the forecast of economists surveyed by MarketWatch. Housing starts in December, meanwhile, were revised up to 1.09 million. Permits for new construction, a sign of future demand, slipped to an annual rate of 1.05 million from December’s upwardly revised level of 1.06 million.