HOUSING: Raise High The Roof Beam

Raise High The Roof Beam

When mortgage rates climbed above 10% last spring, the number of new houses under construction headed for the basement. But last week the Commerce Department reported that housing starts edged up .9% in July, to an annual rate of 1.6 million units, the first monthly increase since February. "We expect some stability for the rest of the year," said Richard Peach, senior economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, a Washington lobbying group.

Housing construction is still vulnerable to any new sign of rising mortgage rates. But there was at least one reason for continued optimism. The Labor Department announced that the...