WASHINGTON — U.S. April housing data contain a few signs of light but the bottom line is that housing remains in the doldrums.

April housing starts advanced 8.2% to 1.032 million units, while permits gained 4.9% to 978,000 units. But both reflected large gains in multifamily projects that are a better gauge of investment optimism than of the consumer, and at their recent peaks there were more than 2.2 million units in each category.

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