WASHINGTON - Builders’ confidence in the market for new single-family homes remained unchanged in March as the National Association of Home Builders' housing market index - a monthly gauge of builder sentiment – held at February’s downwardly revised level of 28.

February’s index was originally reported at 29. The flat March followed five consecutive increases, bringing the index to its highest level since June 2007. Thomson Reuters' poll of economists predicted the index would be 30.

“While builders are still very cautious at this time, there is a sense that many local housing markets have started to move in the right direction and that prospects for future sales are improving,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Florida. “This is demonstrated by the fact that the HMI component measuring builder expectations continued climbing for a sixth straight month in March, to its highest level in more than four years.”

“Builder confidence is now twice as strong as it was six months ago, and the West was the only region to experience a decline this month following an unusual spike in February,” observed NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “That said, many of our members continue to cite obstacles on the road to recovery, including persistently tight builder and buyer credit and the ongoing inventory of distressed properties in some markets.”

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 either "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as either "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.

While the HMI component gauging current sales conditions declined one point to 29 in March, the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months gained two points to 36 and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers held unchanged at 22.

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