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The Associated Press July 20, 2010, 6:03AM ET

Ahead of the Bell: Housing Starts

Homebuilders are expected to have scaled back on construction last month as the economy remained weak and the outlook for the housing market dimmed.

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters are predicting that housing construction fell 2.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 580,000 in June. That's down from May's figure of 593,000.

The Commerce Department will release the report at 8:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

The report also is expected to show that applications for new building permits, a sign of future activity, fell to an annual rate of 570,000 in June. That's down 0.7 percent from May's level of 574,000.

In a typical economic recovery, the construction sector provides much of the fuel. But that hasn't happened this time, largely because developers are trying to sell a glut of homes built during the boom years and must compete against foreclosed homes selling at deep discounts.

Builders have been feeling increasingly pessimistic of late. The National Association of Home Builders said Monday that its monthly reading of builders' sentiment about the housing market sank to 14 -- the lowest level since March 2009. Readings below 50 indicate negative sentiment about the market.

The weak job market and competition from foreclosed properties have prompted builders to limit construction, especially after federal tax credits that spurred sales expired at the end of April.

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