OUTLOOK: Housing: A Bit Better

Housing is one of the keys to the U.S. economy, because its fortunes affect the sales of lumber, steel, furniture, appliances and many other products. For the past two years, it also has been just about the sickest of all American industries. Last week it finally began flashing signals of a recovery, albeit a modest, slow and uneven one.

In May the number of housing starts rose 14% from April, to an annual rate of 1,126,000. That was the first significant upturn after a shocking plunge. From an annual rate of about 2.4 million in 1972, housing starts had nose-dived to...

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