LOS ANGELES (AP) — New data show that the number of U.S. homes set on the path to foreclosure slid to a seven-year low in the third quarter.

Foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday that lenders initiated foreclosure action on about 174,000 homes in the July-September period.

That's down 13 percent from the previous quarter and down 39 percent from the third quarter last year.

The national slowdown in foreclosure starts comes as the U.S. housing market continues to recover from a deep slump.

Fewer homes entering the foreclosure pipeline should translate into fewer properties ending up lost to foreclosure.

While fewer homes are entering the foreclosure process, lenders stepped up home repossessions in the third quarter.

Completed foreclosures rose 7 percent in the third quarter versus the April-June period.