Updated from 11:05 a.m. EDTStocks in New York struggled for direction Friday, even after the release of discouraging housing data and a record low in a consumer sentiment survey. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was lately down 20 points at 8958, while the the S&P 500 was tackign on 2 points to 948. The Nasdaq was up 5.8 points at 1723. The day's economic data looked bearish. The Census Bureau reported that September building permits came in at an annualized rate of 786,000, down from 857,000 in August and below analyst estimates. New-home starts were estimated at 817,000, hitting a 17-year low. Michael Pento, senior market strategist at Delta Global Advisors, said that the U.S. needs to build 1.15 million units a year to satisfy the needs of Americans. "We're building significantly below that at this time," he said. Pento also said that the U.S. has excessive housing inventory, and housing starts may have to drop to 500,000 to clear out the excess. He said that historically, 64% of the U.S. population owned homes, and lately the number has increased to 67.8%. The ratio of median home price to median income has risen to 4-to-1, vs. historical levels of 3-to-1, he said. "You have to wash out all those people who have no business owning a house, people that should be renters," he said. "Simple back of the envelope, you need a 25% drop in home prices just to get to historical measures." He said the government's monetary policy has been an attempt to bring incomes up to levels where people can afford their homes. "That's a very scary way to solve the problem," he said.