WASHINGTON (AP) _ Construction spending surged 2 percent in December to an all-time high level, pushing the amount of money spent on single-family homes to a monthly record.

The Commerce Department reported today that spending rose to a record seasonally adjusted annual rate of $730.3 billion. That followed a revised 2 percent increase in November _ slightly less than the government originally estimated _ helped out by better-than-usual weather.

December's performance was much stronger than many analysts expected. They were predicted that construction would fall by 0.3 percent in December.

For the year, construction spending rose 6 percent, following an increase of 7.6 percent in 1998.

The Federal Reserve today begins a two-day meeting that many economists believe will end Wednesday with the central bank deciding to boost interest rates in an effort to slow the red-hot economy and keep inflation from escalating.

The central bank raised interest rates three times last year by a quarter of a percentage point a piece, a move that made borrowing more expensive for consumers and businesses.