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(MCT)—A gauge of U.S. home-builder confidence showed improvement for the fourth consecutive month in January.

The housing market index, produced by the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo, rose four points to 25 from December to January. That was the highest level the index has reached since the start of the credit crunch in June of 2007. Any number under 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as poor than good.

Improvement in builder confidence as well as steady improvement in new housing starts was heralded by some economists as positive news for the nation’s long-beleaguered housing market.

“Rates have dropped sharply in recent months too and with layoffs down and payrolls improving, people clearly are more willing to take the plunge into housing,” Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note. “Expect much stronger … sales numbers.”

Although builders may be more confident, the housing market still remains weak and the industry will have to compete fiercely with steeply discounted foreclosure properties,

December numbers for Southern California and the Bay Area show median prices in both regions continued to slump last month, though sales picked up in the Bay Area, according to DataQuick, a real estate information service firm.

©2012 the Los Angeles Times
Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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