Builder confidence edges down in December

WASHINGTON, DEC. 15 - Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes receded one point to 16 in December as continued weakness in the economy and job markets weighed on consumers' potential home buying plans, according to the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today.

"From an affordability standpoint, rarely has there been a better time in history to purchase a home, thanks to record low interest rates, attractive prices, and of course the recent extension and expansion of the home buyer tax credit," said Joe Robson, Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. "However, builders are not seeing the full impact of these conditions on buyer demand, partly because awareness of the latest incentives is still building, and partly because of concerns about job security and other economic woes."

"As we anticipated, this is shaping up to be a bumpy recovery period for the housing market," noted NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "While some families may be just starting to factor the expanded tax credit into their potential home buying plans, many are hesitating because of the poor economy. At the same time, tight lending conditions for both consumers and home builders continue to pose considerable obstacles on the road to a sustained housing and economic recovery."

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 December HMI fell one point to 16, its lowest point since June of this year. Two out of three component indexes also were down, with a one-point decline to 16 registered for current sales conditions and a two-point decline to 26 registered for sales expectations in the next six months. The component gauging traffic of prospective buyers remained unchanged for a third consecutive month, at 13.

Regionally, December's HMI results were somewhat mixed. The Northeast posted a three point gain to 23, while the West posted a one-point gain to 19, the South registered no change at 17, and the Midwest posted a two-point decline, to 12.

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