U.S. builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes held at a record low in December as deepening economic turmoil, a deteriorating job market, and an ongoing flow of foreclosed homes onto the market continued to negatively impact sales conditions. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) did not budge this month from November's all-time low reading of 9, with two out of three component indexes losing further ground.
"We have seen no improvement over the past month in terms of sales conditions for new homes," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "In fact, certain factors have gotten progressively worse, not the least of which is the job market, where massive layoffs are having a devastating effect on consumer confidence. At this point it will take definitive government action to stop the slide in home values and turn the tide of consumer sentiment. Expanding the first-time buyer tax credit and providing government action to reduce mortgage rates would go a long way toward arresting this downward spiral, just as a combination of similar moves worked in the 1970s to boost the housing market and economy."
The NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI 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.
Two out of three of the HMI's component indexes registered some further deterioration in December. The index gauging current sales conditions and the index gauging sales expectations for the next six months each declined to new record lows, falling one point to 8 and two points to 16, respectively. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers held at a record low of 7 for the month.
Two out of four regions posted declining builder confidence readings in December, with the Midwest and South edging down one point and two points, to 6 and 10, respectively. The Northeast held even with the previous month's 11 reading, while the West posted a one-point gain to 7.
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