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Homebuilder shares shrug off housing report

The Associated Press

A largely upbeat home construction report failed to inspire much enthusiasm for homebuilder stocks Tuesday as investors have already placed their bets on an improving real estate market.

Home construction topped 1 million for the first time since June 2008, according to a new report from the U.S. Commerce Department. That signals continued strength for the housing recovery at the start of the spring buying season.

The overall pace of homes started rose 7 percent in March from February. Apartment construction led the surge with a 31 gain, the fastest pace since January 2006.

Single-family home building, which makes up the bulk of the market, fell 4.8 percent following a major gain in February. Applications for building permits, a gauge of future construction, declined 3.9 percent after a surge in February.

The report was largely seen as good news for the economy, but the weaker single-family and building permits may have been seen as a negative to some. Response may have also been subdued as the jump was due largely to apartment construction, which can be volatile. Additionally, investors have already sunk more into homebuilder stocks on the belief that the real estate market may improve so Tuesday's somewhat mixed report gave them little impetus for further action.

Steady job growth, near record-low mortgage rates and rising home values have encouraged more people to buy. In response to higher demand and a low supply of available homes for sale, builders have stepped up construction. March's pace of homes started was nearly 46 percent higher than in the same month in 2012.

Homebuilder's shares have been on the rise all year, but showed a mixed reaction Tuesday amid a broader market gain.

Here's a look at how a number of homebuilders fared by midday Tuesday:

Lennar Corp.: Up 2 cents to $37.82

Pulte Group Inc.: Up 40 cents to $18.25.

Hovnanian Enterprises Inc.: Up 9 cents at $5.10.

Toll Brothers Inc.: Down 14 cents to $30.36.

KB Home: Down 6 cents to $20.64.

DR Horton Inc.: Up 1 cent to $21.91.