Raising High the Roof Beams

The housing sector, which accounts for one-fifth of U.S. industrial output, was one of the first industries to collapse under the weight of the recession. Last year, following the building boom of the go-go 1980s, housing suffered its worst decline since World War II: new home starts plunged 15%, to 1 million units. But with falling interest rates and the lure of tax credits enticing consumers back into the market, the industry is showing surprising signs of rebirth.

As of February, sales of existing homes were running at an annual rate of 1.3 million units, up 9.3% in February and more...

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