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Housing News Shows Builders (Mostly) Confident, But the Stock Market's Not

The news from the housing front shows the stock market is trying to listen to people who actually build homes, but their words and actions aren't painting a clear enough picture for a big bet.

The government reported Tuesday that housing starts rose 2.1% in July, to an annual clip of 1.211 million homes. That beat economists' expectations for 1.18 million units, as reported in a Wall Street Journal survey, and was up 5.6% from this time last year.

But in a puzzling signal about builders' confidence, new permits for future construction fell 0.1% during the month to 1.152 million, up less than 1% from last year. Puzzling because it followed an unexpected uptick in confidence reported Monday, when the National Association of Home Builders said its builder confidence index moved up...