The easiest—but most painful—thing Pulte Homes can do to boost sales still might not work

Shares of PulteGroup Inc. have bounced sharply since the home builder reported third-quarter results, but reduced affordability and continued weakness in housing market data suggest some painful measures may be needed to turn a growing number of browsers into buyers.

Pulte’s stock PHM, +3.32% had been in a virtual free-fall in the month leading up to its third-quarter earnings report. It had lost ground in 18 of 24 sessions, shedding a total of 22% to close Monday at the lowest level since January 2017. The SPDR S&P Homebuilders exchange-traded fund XHB, -2.98% had slumped 17% over the same time, which included a record 13-session losing streak, and the S&P 500 index SPX, -1.73% had dropped 5.1%.

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