Real Estate Homebuilder optimism continues to rise

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. homebuilders are gradually growing more optimistic about the depressed housing market and believe homes sales could pick up sharply at the beginning of 2012.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo said its builder sentiment index rose for a fifth straight month in February to 29, up from 25 in January. The index has climbed 15 points since September and is now at its highest level since May 2007.

Builders have generally become more hopeful during that stretch about current sales, sales six months out, and foot traffic, the report shows.

Even with the brighter outlook, the industry has a long way to go. Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn't reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

A key reason homebuilders are more optimistic is they are seeing more people express interest in buying a home. And rising interest has occurred alongside other improvements that suggest the troubled housing market could pick up after four weak years.

Sales of previously occupied homes rose in December for a third straight month. Mortgage rates have never been lower. And home construction picked up in the final quarter of last year.

Published: Thu, Feb 16, 2012

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