By Harriet Torry
A gauge of U.S. home-builder confidence slipped for the fourth straight month in April, as higher construction material costs and a lack of building space pinched momentum.
The National Association of Home Builders on Monday said its housing-market index fell by one point to a seasonally adjusted level of 69 in April. The index has declined since hitting 74 in December--its highest level in 18 years.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected the index to remain unchanged on the month at 70.
The index measures builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes. Figures above 50 mean more builders see conditions as good rather than bad.
NAHB Chairman Randy Noel said tariffs placed on Canadian lumber and other imported products are pushing up prices and hurting housing affordability.
Nonetheless, "ongoing employment gains, rising wages and favorable demographics should spur demand for single-family homes in the months ahead," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz.
Sales of new U.S. homes dropped slightly in February, the last month for which data are available. Purchases of newly built single-family homes fell 0.6% in February from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 618,000, the Commerce Department said last month.
Borrowing costs remain low by historical standards, although they have been ticking higher in recent months as the Federal Reserve has been gradually raising short-term interest rates.
The rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.42% in the week ended April 12, according to Freddie Mac, up from the previous week's 4.4% average rate.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 16, 2018 10:14 ET (14:14 GMT)
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