Builder sentiment retreats in Oct

WASHINGTON, OCT. 16 - Reflecting profound uncertainties tied to the financial market shocks of recent weeks, builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes receded to a new record low this month. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) declined three points to 14 in October after having edged up slightly in the previous month.

"Not surprisingly, builder confidence has taken a heavy hit from the recent financial market crisis," noted NAHB Chairman Sandy Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W. Va. "We applaud the coordinated government efforts that have been undertaken to try to stem the panic on Wall Street and ease the impacts on Main Street, and we stand ready to support additional efforts to help stabilize housing and the national economy going forward."

"Undoubtedly, today's HMI reflects builder assessments of the recent events on Wall Street, the rapid deterioration in job markets and the corresponding weakness in consumer confidence," noted NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. "This report provides clear evidence that an additional economic stimulus package is needed, including a substantial incentive to spur home buying. The impacts of the record-breaking housing contraction have spilled over to other key sectors of the economy and weighed heavily on financial markets, and stabilizing housing is now the best chance we have to limit the severity of recession."

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

All three component indexes fell this month. The indexes gauging current sales conditions and sales expectations for the next six months each hit new lows, falling three points to 14 and nine points to 19, respectively. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers declined two points, returning to July's record low of 12.

Every region posted declines in builder confidence in October, with four-point declines recorded in the Northeast and South, to 17 and 16, respectively, a three-point decline to 10 registered for the West, and a one-point decline to 14 posted in the Midwest.