Approvals for the construction of new homes rose 8.3 per cent in February, beating market expectations of a 1.5 per cent fall.

Over the 12 months to February building approvals were down 4.9 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Monday.

Approvals for private sector houses rose 5.3 per cent in the month, and the ‘other dwellings’ category, which includes apartment blocks and townhouses, was up 10.9 per cent.