WASHINGTON – Confidence among U.S. homebuilders rose less than forecast in March, a sign the industry may take time to pick up after inclement weather damped activity earlier in the year.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder confidence climbed to 47 from 46 in February, a report from the Washington-based group showed on Monday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 47 economists was 50. Readings below 50 mean more survey respondents reported poor market conditions than good.
This month’s reading follows a drop in February that was the biggest on record amid snowstorms that restrained prospective buyers from going out to shop for homes and kept builders from starting work. Recent gains in borrowing costs and higher property values also are limiting affordability, while an improving job market will help to underpin demand.
“Builders continued to be affected by poor weather and difficulties in finding lots and labor,” NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a homebuilder and developer from Wilmington, Del., said in a statement.
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 45 to 55. The index, which was first published in January 1985, reached a record low of 8 in January 2009.
Another report on Monday showed factory production rose in February by the most in six months, indicating the industry started to recover from severe winter weather.
The 0.8 percent increase at manufacturers followed a 0.9 percent slump in the prior month that was the biggest since May 2009, figures from the Federal Reserve in Washington showed. The median forecast called for a 0.3 percent gain. Total industrial production rose 0.6 percent, more than projected.
The builders group’s index of present sales of single- family homes increased to 52 this month from 51 in February.