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April 16, 2018 3:45 PM, EDT

Optimism Among Builders Slides for Fourth Consecutive Month

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NEW YORK — Homebuilder confidence slid for the fourth consecutive month with steadily rising mortgage rates and sky-high home prices putting ownership out of reach for more Americans.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index for April, released April 16, fell one point to 69. Any reading above 50 indicates more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor, but it’s the most extended decline since the run-up to the housing bust.

The index has been above 60 since September 2016 and it hit a record high in December. April’s reading is the lowest since November.

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Builders’ view of current sales conditions fell two points to 75, the outlook for sales over the next six months fell one point, to 77. A measure of buyer traffic held steady at 51.

The National Association of Homebuilders cited higher building material costs and a lack of land to build on as key reasons for the nick in confidence readings. The group said winter weather slowed building in some areas.

Also being shaken are investors, which have been selling off holdings in the nation’s largest homebuilders.

D.R. Horton Inc., Lennar Corp., PulteGroup Inc., Toll Brothers Inc., Beazer Homes USA Inc. and Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. have fallen 11% or more since the start of the year. The S&P 500 is positive for the year even after a number of major sell-offs.

The average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages edged up to 4.42%, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported April 12. Rates have ticked steadily higher ahead of the traditional spring home-buying season, which is beginning to ramp up.

While the National Association of Realtors reported a 3.1% jump in pending sales for February, that followed a 5% tumble in January. The index still is down 4.1% compared with last year.

Sales of new homes fell for the third straight month in February, according to the Commerce Department. Sales of existing homes rose in February after two months of decline.

The United States releases April data on new and existing home sales next week.