Housing starts jumped 17 percent from April to May, to an annual rate of 532,000, but builder confidence remains low, according to separate reports out this week.Much of the increase in housing starts last month was in multifamily construction -- single-family starts were up a more modest 7.5 percent from April to May, to an annual rate of 401,000 homes a year -- the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a report today.Looking back a year, housing starts were off 45.2 percent from the rate of 971,000 units per year seen in May 2008.Looking ahead, building permits were issued at a rate of 518,000 per year during May, up 4 percent from April but down 47 percent from a year ago, when permits were pulled at the rate of 978,000 a year.The increase in housing starts and permits "might be good news in the short term for homebuilders like Lennar and D.R. Horton," but in the long term "does not make the overall housing market any healthier...
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