Stocks fell at the open on Tuesday after data showed new U.S. housing starts and permits unexpectedly slid to record lows last month, tempering hopes of economic stabilization.

The data suggested demand for new construction remained relatively weak as the housing downturn persists and foreclosures mount.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 12.11 points, or 0.14 percent, to 8,491.97. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was off 1.58 points, or 0.17 percent, to 908.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 10.53 points, or 0.61 percent, at 1,721.83.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)