NAHB Index Unchanged in May, Pointing to Steady Housing Growth

A gauge of home-builder sentiment was unchanged in May, a sign of steady growth for the housing market.

The National Association of Home Builders housing market index held at 58 this month, the trade group said on Monday. A reading over 50 means most builders generally see conditions in the single-family housing market as positive.

The index hasn't budged from 58 for four straight months. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a reading of 59 in May.

The index has been positive since mid-2014 and reached a postrecession high of 65 in October before declining.

Alongside rising employment, low mortgage rates have helped fuel demand. That boosted expectations for sales in the next six months to the highest level of the year.

"The fact that future sales expectations rose slightly this month shows that builders are confident that the market will continue to strengthen, " Robert Dietz, NAHB's chief economist.

With mixed signals from other sectors of the economy, the chances of a Federal Reserve interest-rate increase next month are diminishing. That would help keep mortgage rates at historically low levels, aiding the housing market.

A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.57% for the week ending May 12, down from 3.85% a year earlier.

More housing data is due out later this week, including the Commerce Department's report on housing starts on Tuesday and the National Association of Realtors' report on existing home sales on Friday.

By Jeffrey Sparshott