Gloomy housing data today with home builders’ optimism hitting almost a 1-1/2 year low in August, which along with other recent economic reports suggests the slowdown continued in the third quarter. More to come tomorrow when July housing starts are reported at 8:30 a.m. Even if starts edge up a bit, the number to watch is building permits which are an indication of things to come. OBAMA/

President Barack Obama went with familiar themes in Wisconsin where he visited a battery plant and a fundraiser as he began a three-day trip to five states. He took aim at Republicans, saying: “These are the same folks in Washington who made the political calculation that it was better to stand on the sidelines than work as a team to help the American worker.”

The Republican National Committee also had its say today, releasing a video to coincide with Obama’s trip that was a take-off on the dramatic job-quitting flight attendant saga. It showed Democrats in tight races sliding down an emergency chute to evacuate a plane with Obama on board.

Two-and-a-half months left…

Here are our top stories from today:

Home builder mood sours, manufacturing edges up

Home builder sentiment fell for a third straight month in August to its lowest level in nearly 1-1/2 years, pointing to a weak housing market as the economic recovery loses steam. Further signs that the recovery from the longest and deepest recession since the 1930s was taking a step back were contained in another report that showed below-forecast growth in manufacturing activity in New York state, with new orders and shipments tumbling.

To read more of this story by Lucia Mutikani and Wanfeng Zhou, click here.

Obama touts economic plans on campaign odyssey

President Barack Obama criss-crossed the United States touting his economic stimulus policies and slamming rival Republicans as he campaigned for Democrats fighting to keep control of Congress in November’s elections. At a stop at a battery plant in Wisconsin he sought to convince voters he can ease high unemployment and has a plan to fix a slowing economy in which fears of a double-dip recession have grown recently. Obama took aim at Republicans, whom he said seek to turn back the clock by resisting his administration’s efforts to bolster the sagging economy.