Stocks stagnate near three-month lows as homebuilders languish

Stocks were little changed today, hovering near the lows they established last November, as President Barack Obama laid out a $75 billion plan to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and the Federal Reserve sharply lowered its forecast for U.S. economic growth in 2009.

The markets were mixed, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising a scant 3 points, or 0.04 percent, to 7,555, while the S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent to 788 and the Nasdaq declined 0.18 percent to close just shy of 1,468.
Homebuilders sank early in the day on news that new home starts fell 17 percent last month. These stocks rallied briefly after President Obama unveiled his assistance plan for homeowners before sinking again later in the afternoon. Lennar Corp. (LEN) fell 5.48 percent to $6.90, D.R. Horton (DHI) dropped 5.38 percent to $8.44 and Pulte Homes (PHI) declined 4.13 percent to $9.51 at the closing bell.

Airline stocks also fell after the International Air Transport Association released data showing that customers were buying fewer high-priced tickets and cutting back on travel to Asia. US Airways Group (LCC) fell 14.5 percent to $3.78; UAL Corp. (UAUA), the parent of United Airlines, fell 14.86 percent to $6.36; and Delta Air Lines (DAL) fell 10.08 percent to $5.71.

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