Brookfield had been trending up all week before giving back those gains in the morning session. Comstock had also trended up since announcing earnings on Nov. 9, but gave back some of those gains since the post-announcement surge.

Even as the sector is putting its best face forward and fears of the tax credit expiration dissipate, labor market woes were also likely a big factor in the housing dip. With economists forecasting an unemployment rate staying at or above 10% for the first half of 2010, the job market's influence on new construction is likely to remain high on the list of reasons to expect more mixed signals from housing.

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York

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