Home builder confidence improves in February

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 -- Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose two points to 17 in February as favorable home buying conditions and signs of healing in the job market helped boost the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index released today.

"Continued low interest rates, very attractive home prices that appear to have stabilized in many markets, and the availability of the home buyer tax credit make this an opportune time for potential purchasers," said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones, a home builder from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "As a result, builders are slightly more optimistic that the housing recovery is finally beginning to take root."

"Builders are just beginning to see the anticipated effects of the home buyer tax credit on consumer demand," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Meanwhile, another source of encouragement is the improving employment market, which is key to any sustainable economic or housing recovery. That said, several limiting factors are still weighing down builder expectations, including the large number of foreclosed homes on the market, the lack of available credit for new and existing projects, and inappropriately low appraisals tied to the use of distressed properties as comps."

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index 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.

The HMI for February gained two points to 17, its highest level since November of 2009, with two out of three of its component indexes also rising. The component gauging current sales conditions rose two points to 17, while the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months rose a single point to 27. Meanwhile, the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers remained flat, at 12.

Regionally, February's HMI results were mixed. While the Midwest and South each registered two-point gains, to 13 and 19, respectively, the Northeast and West each registered one-point declines, to 19 and 14, respectively.

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