The National Association of Home Builders said today in Washington that the U.S. Housing Starts fell 1.1 percent at a 698 annual pace in February, after rising 3.7 percent to 706 thousand annual rate (revised from a 1.5 percent or 699 thousand) in January.

Its crystal clear the real-estate housing market continues to struggle to reach a safe bay, still hurt by disressed properties and sky-rocket foreclosures, even as mortgage rates near record lows. Analysts' median estimates for February housing starts were around 700 thousand.

Building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose a solid 5.1 percent to a 717 thousand annual rate last month, from a prior gain of 1.6 percent or 682 thousand (revised from 0.7 percent or 676 thousand) in the prior month, beating median estimates of 686 thousand.