NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Shares of homebuilders advanced Tuesday after a report showed construction of new homes rose for the fifth straight month, while shareholders approved a takeover of Centex Corp. by rival homebuilder Pulte Homes Inc.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday the pace of single-family home construction edged up almost 2 percent in July, while building permits for future construction climbed nearly 6 percent.

Still, new home construction is off more than 70 percent from the peak in January 2006, and apartment construction fell 13 percent from June to July.

The report came a day after the National Association of Home Builders said its housing market index rose this month to the highest point in more than a year, as homebuyers hurried to take advantage of a federal tax credit before it expires.

Builders and real estate agents are pressing in Congress for that credit to be extended.

If the tax credit expires, "we could see a fallback," said David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

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