US stocks dip on disappointing housing data

US stocks Wednesday opened lower after data showed an unexpectedly big decline in new home construction and building permits in January.

Five minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 30.21 (0.19 percent) to 16,100.19.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 3.94 (0.21 percent) to 1,836.82, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index lost 7.72 (0.18 percent) at 4,265.07.

Housing starts sank 16.0 percent from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, the Commerce Department said, well below analyst forecasts of 963,000.

Building permits dropped 5.4 percent to 937,000, below the 980,000 forecast.

Analysts have somewhat downplayed economic data for December and January, believing that unusually cold weather in much of the US has depressed economic activity.

"From our vantage point, we think the housing starts report suggests weather did have some undue impact, but that the weakness was not all weather-related," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.