Home builder confidence slips to start the year, report says

Home builders less confident in prospects for future sales, trade group says

U.S. home builders grew slightly less optimistic in January, although they're still confident in the market for newly built single-family homes.

The National Assn. of Home Builders confidence index, released Tuesday, fell a point from December, to a reading of 57. Any level above 50 means more builders view the new-home market as good rather than poor.

But as builders looked ahead, their optimism diminished. The index component measuring future sales dropped four points to 60. Views of current sales conditions held steady, while a measure of prospective buyer traffic dipped two points.

The housing market softened in 2014, as many families struggled to afford a house after home prices rose far faster than incomes in recent years. The upcoming spring home-buying season will provide insight into whether that trend holds.

Mortgage rates have fallen to levels not seen since May 2013, which could help juice demand.

The trade group’s chief economist, David Crowe, said an improving national economy bodes well for the housing market this year.

“Steady economic growth, rising consumer confidence and a growing labor market will help the housing market continue to move forward in 2015," he said.

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