Homebuilders' optimism high for 'very busy' 2004

January 25, 2004|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

U.S. homebuilder optimism held close this month to an almost four-year high after sales reached a record in 2003 and orders picked up in the fourth quarter, an industry survey showed.

The National Association of Home Builders' housing market index registered 68 in January, compared with 70 the month before. Readings above 50 mean more builders view conditions as good than poor. The index has held above 60 since June.

Centex Corp. and Pulte Homes Inc. are among builders whose orders increased in the final three months of 2003.

Applications to buy homes rose in the first two weeks of this year as an easing of mortgage rates and signs that the economy is strengthening encouraged consumers, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"Coming off the best year in history for single-family home sales and production, builders are set for another very busy year in 2004," said Kent Conine, a home and apartment builder in Dallas who is president of the NAHB.

The sentiment gauge was based on a survey of 270 builders. It reached 72 in October, the highest since December 1999.

"In all, the outlook is quite upbeat," said David Seiders, the homebuilders' chief economist.

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