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It seems to go this way a lot. A national report released one day (yesterday’s positive builder sentiment) bears some good news for the housing market. And then the next day the market’s slammed with a different index, this one crushing its precious, cautious hope back into the ground.

OK, maybe that’s a little melodramatic. But the news released today by the Commerce Department seemed to come without a silver lining. Compared even to the month previous, October’s new home starts (the number of units that started construction) were down 14.6 percent. And, compared to a year ago, they were down 27.4 percent.

Two other categories of statistics were reported. About 1.5 million residential building permits were issued last month (down 3.8 percent from September and 28 percent from last October). The New York Times said it was the fewest number of permits issued since 1997.

The number of housing units completed, while down 3.8 percent from September, were less than a percent lower than last October.

You can read comment from some economists here at the NY Times story, or here at MarketWatch, where an economist called today’s news a “sharp poke in the eye” for those who claimed a light at the end of the tunnel in September.

KELLY BENNETT

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