The December number was the largest increase since June 2008. The decline shows the recovery is moderate but housing permits rose, indicating that housing will continue to be a significant factor.
But the recovery in housing needs easier access to credit and faster hiring to carry the recovery forward.
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index fell to 46 in February from 47, which had been the highest level since April 2006.
Uncertainties about job growth and rising prices for materials caused builders to adjust their expectations based on the pace of consumer demand.
A reading below 50 means builders view market conditions as poor. The index has not risen above 60 since April 2006.
A measure of sales expectations over the next six months did rise to 50 while a measure of current sales conditions dropped to 51 from 52.
An index of prospective buyers fell from 36 to 32.

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