Builder confidence stabilizes after 'a soft start to the year'
- The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index held steady in March at a score of 58 — the same mark it reached in February — the NAHB reported Tuesday.
- In terms of three-month moving regional averages, the Midwest rose one point to 59, the South remained at 58, the Northeast slipped one point to 56, and the West dropped three points 69.
- Economists had predicted builder confidence would inch up one point to 59 this month, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal noted that although March's confidence level didn't quite reach expectations, the mark is still "a sign the U.S. housing market could be stabilizing after a soft start to the year."
In a familiar pattern, the NAHB cited the lack of available labor and land as the main contributing factors holding builder optimism back from stronger growth.
"While builder sentiment has been relatively flat for the last few months, the March HMI reading correlates with NAHB's forecast of a steady firming of the single-family sector in 2016," NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said in a release. "Solid job growth, low mortgage rates and improving mortgage availability will help keep the housing market on a gradual upward trajectory in the coming months."
Housing market reports last month were mostly disappointing. Homebuilder confidence slipped three points to a score of 58, housing starts unexpectedly slipped 3.8%, new home sales dropped 9.2%, and pending home sales declined 2.5% in January. On the bright side, however, existing home sales surpassed expectations and rose a slight 0.4%.
Despite the HMI's tepid start to this month's housing reports, the overall state of the residential industry will be more clear after the release of housing starts, on Wednesday, existing home sales, on March 21, and new home sales, on March 23.
Follow Emily Peiffer on Twitter