-By Eric Morath and Alan Zibel, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9279; firstname.lastname@example.org
3-19-12 10:25 AM EDT
WASHINGTON -- U.S. home builders' confidence in the housing market held steady in March after five consecutive monthly gains, keeping sentiment at the highest level in nearly five years as the industry slowly regains its footing after a devastating bust.
The National Association of Home Builders said Monday its housing market index was 28 this month. It was the same level as February, which was revised down from a previously reported 29. The reading, while historically low, is holding at its highest level since June 2007.
The results, however, came in below expectations. Economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a reading of 30. A reading above 50 in the NAHB index would mean more builders view conditions as good rather than poor. The gauge hasn't been in positive territory since April 2006.
"Builder confidence is now twice as strong as it was six months ago," said David Crowe, the association's chief economist. "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."
The three components of the index were mixed in March. Builders' assessment current sales conditions declined one point from the prior month, while expectations for sales over the next six months grew by two points, reaching the highest level since June 2007. The reading of traffic from potential buyers held steady.
The March index was based on a survey of 403 builders. Regionally, the index improved in the Northeast, Midwest and South, but declined in the West.
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