Housing Starts in U.S. Weaken as Construction Stagnates; Permits Decline

Builders began work on fewer homes in July, indicating residential real estate is failing to contribute to U.S. growth two years into an economic recovery.

Housing starts fell 1.5 percent to a 604,000 annual rate, in line with the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, from June's 613,000 pace that was less than previously estimated, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. Building permits, a proxy for future construction, also dropped.

Falling sales, foreclosures and a lack of jobs may keep delaying a rebound in homebuilding, depriving the world's largest economy of a source of strength seen in the early stages of past recoveries. Concern over housing is prompting banks to maintain strict mortgage lending rules and was one reason the Federal Reserve said it would hold borrowing costs at a record low until at least mid-2013.

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