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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 9:16 am

US futures mixed on housing, prices data

The Associated Press

U.S. stock futures were mixed with the government reporting Wednesday that homebuilding slowed during the first month of the year.

Dow Jones industrial futures gained 3 points to 14,010. The broader S&P futures lost 0.50 points to trade 1,527.50. Nasdaq futures were flat at 2,780.75.

Even though builders eased their pace in January, the Department of Commerce reported that new housing starts remained at a 4 1/2-year high.

Builders started construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 890,000 last month, down 8.5 percent from December, which was the best performance during the final month of the year since June 2008.

Perhaps more encouraging still, applications for building permits rose to an annual rate of 925,000 in January, 1.8 percent higher than December, which had been the high-point since mid-2008.

It has been a mixed week in the housing sector.

The National Association of Home Builders reported Tuesday that confidence among U.S. homebuilders slipped this month from the 6 1/2 year high it reached in January. On Wednesday, while the luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers returned to a profit during its first quarter, it fell short of Wall Street estimates and shares fell early.

Also on Wednesday, the Labor Department said that the rising costs of food and soda helped push wholesale prices higher last month, though inflation appears under control.