NAHB index falls in December
* The overall index registered 16 in December. That was down from November's reading of 17 and below the 18 that economists were expecting.
* Among the sub-indices, the one measuring present single family sales slipped to 16 from 17. The prospective buyer traffic sub-index held steady at 13, while the sub-index measuring expectations about future sales fell to 26 from 28.
* Regionally speaking, we had a mixed bag again. The Northeast index rose to 23 from 20, while the West index climbed to 19 from 18. The Midwest index dropped to 12 from 14, while the South index held at 17.
It looks like the housing industry got a lump of coal in its stocking this year. The NAHB's index of builder sentiment slipped to its lowest level since June, with both current sales and expectations about future sales declining. Buyer traffic held steady. But it's still only a few points above the all-time low set in late 2008.
These figures underscore the gradual, tentative nature of the housing recovery. Elevated unemployment, tighter credit standards, and shaky buyer confidence are offsetting near-record affordability and low mortgage rates. The result is somewhat of a "push" -- with the housing market neither plunging to new lows nor experiencing a "V"-shaped recovery typical of what we've seen in past housing cycles.