Monday, March 19, 2007

Builder Confidence Declines in March

by Bill McBride on 3/19/2007 01:05:00 PM

Click on graph for larger image.

UPDATE: NABH Press Release: Builder Confidence Slips In March

Builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes receded in March, largely on concerns about deepening problems in the subprime mortgage arena, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today. After rising fairly steadily since its recent low last September, the HMI declined three points from a downwardly revised 39 reading in February to 36 in March.

“Builders are uncertain about the consequences of tightening mortgage lending standards for their home sales down the line, and some are already seeing effects of the subprime shakeout on current sales activity,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “The fundamentals of today’s housing market still are relatively strong, including a favorable interest-rate structure, solid growth in employment and household income, lower energy prices and improving affordability in much of the single-family market – due in part to price cuts and non-price sales incentives offered by builders. NAHB continues to forecast modest improvements in home sales during the balance of 2007, although the problems in the mortgage market increase the degree of uncertainty surrounding our baseline (i.e., most probable) forecast.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 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.

All three component indexes registered declines in March after having risen in the previous month. The index gauging current single-family home sales and the index gauging sales expectations for the next six months each declined three points, to 37 and 50, respectively. Meanwhile, the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers declined a single point, to 28.

Regionally, the HMI results were somewhat mixed. In the Midwest and West, the index gained one point to 28 and 36, respectively. In the Northeast, the HMI declined two points to 41, and in the South, it fell four points to 40.