PERMITS UP: U.S. builders requested 5 percent more permits in February to build single-family homes and apartments in the coming months. That increased the annual rate to a seasonally adjusted 717,000 permits, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

MORE CONFIDENT: Homebuilders have grown more confident over the past six months after seeing more people show interest in buying a home. The rise in permits suggests builders see that interest translating into sales over the next 12 months.

STILL WEAK: Economists caution that the housing market is still weak. The number of homes started in February _ 698,000 _ is roughly half the annual pace considered healthy.


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