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Housing confidence picks up five years after collapse
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are regaining confidence in the housing market five years after it collapsed.

Builders are starting work on more homes. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are up from the same time last year. Home prices are rising in most markets.

The market still has a long way to regain full health. But the data suggest that a recovery is under way.

Here's a look at recent housing indicators:


U.S. builders began work in June on the most new homes in nearly four years. Housing starts rose 6.9 percent from May in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 760,000. That's the highest since October 2008. The level of construction remains well below the rate of roughly 1.5 million homes a year that's considered healthy and the 2 million rate reached during the housing bubble. But it's much stronger than the annual rate of 478,000 homes at the depth of the housing bust.


Prices in half the 20 cities in the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index have risen over the past 12 months. Even with the gains, the index remains 34 percent below its peak reached in the summer of 2006, at the height of the housing boom. Based on the 20-city index, home prices are now at about the same level as in early 2003.


Sales have reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000 homes, the best pace since April 2010. Despite the increases, the level is less than half the roughly 700,000 that economists consider healthy.


Sales have risen 9.6 percent from a year ago. Still, the pace has slowed since nearly touching a two-year high in April and remains well below the 6 million that economists consider normal. Sales of previously occupied homes in May reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million.


Confidence among U.S. homebuilders has reached a five-year high, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index. The index is based on responses from 318 builders. Turnout by prospective buyers is also at a level not seen in five years.


The stocks of the 13 U.S. homebuilders whose shares are publicly traded have increased an average 60 percent this year. By contrast, the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index is up about 9 percent this year.

— MORTGAGE RATES: The average rate on the fixed-rate 30-year mortgage is at a record low of 3.56 percent. The rate on the 30-year loan has fallen to or matched record low levels in 11 of the past 12 weeks.