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.

Meanwhile, Pulte Homes said Tuesday that shareholders for the homebuilder and rival Centex each voted to clear Pulte's takeover of Centex, creating the largest homebuilder in the United States. The deal is expected to close by the end of the day.

Shares of Pulte edged up 4 cents to $12.36 in late trading, while Centex gained 5 cents to $12.04.

Other homebuilders also advanced. Shares of DR Horton Inc. climbed 29 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $12.18, while Lennar Corp. rose 27 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $13.10 and Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. jumped 23 cents, or 6.2 percent, to $3.93.

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