Builder Confidence Up at Last (Just a Little)

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builder confidenceFinally, a bit good news in the housing market. October's NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released today, is up four points -- the biggest jump in a year and a half.

The index, which measures homebuilders' confidence in the health of the single-family home market, is an indication that, in some places at least, the residential real estate market is showing signs of recovery, however fragile. Current sales, expectations for sales over the next six months and activity of prospective buyers were all up, particularly in Western states.

Lest anybody get too excited, the NAHB sounded a note of caution. "While some builders have shifted their assessment of market conditions from 'poor' to 'fair,' relatively few have shifted their assessments from 'fair' to 'good,' " chief economist David Crowe said in a statement. The organization's chairman, a builder in Reno, Nev., blamed the low level of confidence on "overly restrictive lending policies that are discouraging prospective buyers, problems with new-home appraisals and widespread uncertainty regarding federal support for homeownership."

An index number of 50 or greater means more homebuilders are positive than negative about the state of the market. Even though this month's four-point rise is notable, it still only brings the index to up to a still-pessimistic 18.

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