NEW YORK — Shares of mortgage insurers continued to plunge Thursday after a Commerce Department report offered little hope for a recovery in the housing market.
The Commerce Department reported Thursday builders began construction on 1.353 million homes and apartments last year, a 24.8 percent slide. That was the steepest decline since 1980.
Mortgage insurers have suffered in the past year along with the beleaguered housing market, which is in its third year of a slump.
Companies like Radian Group Inc. and MGIC Investment Corp. write insurance policies that promise to reimburse lenders when mortgage borrowers default. As home prices fall, claims from mortgage defaults are mounting and mortgage insurance stocks have plummeted.
Housing prices are a pillar of mortgage credit. When home prices fall, borrowers often lose both the incentive and the means to repay their mortgages.
In afternoon trading, Radian Group's shares tumbled $1.69, or 21.5 percent, to $6.18. The stock, which closed Wednesday down 85 percent in the last six months, reached as low as $6.10, a 13-year low.
Shares of MGIC Investment sank $1.96, or 12.11 percent, to $13.86. The stock touched as low as $11.63, the cheapest trade since 1992. MGIC's shares, which topped $70 in early 2007, have lost three-quarters of their value in the last year.
Shares of PMI Group Inc. lost $1.18, or 15.2 percent, to $6.59. Earlier in the day, the stock registered its cheapest trade in its 12-year history.