The Empire State Building and surrounding buildings in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg)

U.S. Homebuilder Sentiment Exceeds Forecast

(Bloomberg) -- Confidence among American homebuilders stabilized in September as demand held up and lumber prices fell, a National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo report showed Tuesday.

Highlights of Homebuilder Sentiment (September)

  • Housing Market Index unchanged from prior month at 67 (est. 66) 
  • Gauge of six-month sales outlook rose for first time since Feb., climbing to 74 from 72, while current-sales index for single-family homes increased to 74 from 73
  • Measure of prospective buyer traffic unchanged at 49 

Key Takeaways

While the unchanged main gauge matched the lowest since September 2017, it bucked analyst estimates for a decline and two of the components advanced. That signals the housing market, at least for newly constructed homes, may be stabilizing after signs of a slowdown in recent months.

While rising prices and mortgage rates have squeezed buyers, a strong labor market and tax cuts have supported demand. Data on housing starts and existing-home sales due in the next two days are both projected to show improvement in August.

Builders continue to report strong demand as millennials and other newcomers enter the market, the report said. Affordability, however, remains a concern as builders work to manage construction costs and keep prices competitive. Lumber prices have tumbled since reaching a record in May.

U.S. Homebuilder Sentiment Exceeds Forecast

Official’s View

“A growing economy and rising incomes combined with increasing household formations should boost demand for new single-family homes,” NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said in a statement. “However, housing affordability is becoming a challenge, as builders face overly burdensome regulations and rising material costs exacerbated by an escalating trade skirmish.”