The Dow Jones industrial average was down 12 points at 14,023 shortly after the opening bell Wednesday.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down three points at 1,527. The Nasdaq fell five points to 3,208.
Even though builders eased their pace in January, the Department of Commerce reported that new housing starts remained at a 4 1/2-year high. The mixed news disappointed investors hoping to see more solid signs of recovery in the housing market.
Builders started construction at an annual rate of 890,000 last month, down 8.5 percent from December.
GPS device maker Garmin slumped 9 percent after the company's results missed analysts' forecasts.