WASHINGTON (

TheStreet

) -- Homebuilders began construction on 11.7% fewer homes in October, far worse than the expected contraction rate, though applications for building permits edged up 0.5%, pointing to an uptick in future homebuilding activity.

The Commerce Department said early Wednesday that housing starts came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 519,000 in October, after a downwardly revised rate of 588,000 for September and worse than the rate of 600,000 economics expected, according to consensus estimates listed on

Briefing.com

.

The figure compares with the originally reported

pace of 610,000 reported for September.

Applications for building permits increased 0.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 555,000, compared with the revised September rate of 547,000. October's rate remains 4.5% lower than in the year-earlier month.

Building permits are viewed as an indication of future home construction.

Stocks in the homebuilder sector were mixed in premarket trading Thursday ahead of the report on housing starts and building permits. The

SPDR S&P Homebuilders

(XHB) - Get Report

, an exchange-traded fund that tracks the sector, was 0.5% lower, while the

iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction

(ITB) - Get Report

ETF was flat.

Among individual builders,

D.R. Horton

(DHI) - Get Report

fell 0.5%,

Lennar

(LEN) - Get Report

0.5%,

Toll Brothers

(TOL) - Get Report

0.5%.

KB Home

(KBH) - Get Report

and

NVR

(NVR) - Get Report

were flat.

PulteGroup

(PHM) - Get Report

bucked the trend, gaining 1.9% in premarket trading.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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