LOS ANGELES – Confidence among U.S. homebuilders slipped this month from the 61/2 year high it reached in January, with many builders reporting less traffic by prospective customers before the critical spring home-buying season.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday dipped to 46 from 47 in January. It was the first monthly decline in the index since April.
Readings below 50 suggest negative sentiment about the housing market. The last time the index was at 50 or higher was in April 2006, when it was 51. It began trending higher in October 2011, when it was 17.
The latest index, based on responses from 402 builders, comes as the U.S. housing market is strengthening after stagnating for roughly five years after the housing boom collapsed.
Steady job gains and near-record-low mortgage rates have encouraged more people to buy homes.
All told, sales of new homes jumped nearly 20 percent last year to 367,000, the most since 2009.