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Home-builder confidence steady but weak in April

Home-builder confidence inched up this month, but remains shaky as the spring home-buying season gets underway.

The National Assn. of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released Tuesday, remained essentially flat in April, at 47. A level below 50 means more builders see the market for new, single-family homes as poor rather than good.

March's level was revised down one point to 46.

The association’s chief economist, David Crowe, said builders are pessimistic for several reasons: tight credit for potential buyers and a short supply of skilled labor and ready-to-build lots. Still, he said, several factors point to “a gradual improvement in housing demand.”

"Job growth is proceeding at a solid pace, mortgage interest rates remain historically low and home prices are affordable," he said in a statement.

GRAPHIC: Southern California's housing recovery

Though prices in most markets remain far below those of the bubble days, housing has become increasingly unaffordable for many after rapid price gains last year. That, along with a rise in mortgage rates, has slowed demand and the recovery.

Traffic from prospective buyers remains weak. That segment of the survey held flat in April, at a very low reading of 32 out of 100.

Although builders aren’t particularly excited now, they're more optimistic about the future, the survey found: The segment gauging expectations for future sales rose four points to 57.

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