Floods that have battered the Midwest helped keep the pace of national homebuilding flat last month, the Commerce Department said July 20, offsetting the expected benefit of cheaper mortgage rates.

The annual rate of starts on new homes was unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 1.25 million units, while May starts were revised upward to show a 4 percent increase instead of the previously reported 2.4 percent gain.

Mortgage rates are at 20-year lows, offering a boost for the whole housing industry. But low consumer confidence in the creeping economic recovery is making buyers cautious.

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