The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index (HMI) is a gauge of builder opinion on the relative level of current and future single-family home sales.
It is a diffusion index, which means that a reading above 50 indicates a favorable outlook on home sales; below 50 indicates a negative outlook.
The latest reading of 30 is down 42 from last month and saw its largest monthly decline in its history.
Here is the opening of this morning’s monthly update:
Reflecting the growing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes plunged 42 points in April to 30, according to the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released today. The decline in April was the largest single monthly change in the history of the index and marks the lowest builder confidence reading since June 2012. It is also the first time that builder confidence has been in negative territory (below 50) since June 2014.
“This unprecedented drop in builder confidence is due exclusively to the coronavirus outbreak across the nation, as unemployment has skyrocketed and gaps in the supply chain have hampered construction activities,” said NAHB Chairman Dean Mon. “Meanwhile, there continues to be some confusion over builder eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program, as some builders have successfully submitted loan applications while others have not been able to. NAHB is working with the White House, Treasury and Congress to get the broadest builder participation possible. Home building (NYSEARCA:XHB)remains an essential business throughout most of the nation, and as the pandemic shows signs of easing in the weeks ahead, buyers should return to the marketplace.”
“Before the pandemic hit, the housing market was showing signs of strength with January and February new home sales at their highest pace since the Great Recession,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “To show how hard and fast this outbreak has hit the housing sector, a recent poll of our members reveals that 96% reported that virus mitigation efforts were hurting buyer traffic. While the virus is severely disrupting residential construction and the overall economy, the need and demand for housing remains acute. As social distancing and other mitigation efforts show signs of easing this health crisis, we expect that housing will play its traditional role of helping to lead the economy out of a recession later in 2020.” [link]
Here is the historical series, which dates from 1985.
The HMI correlates fairly closely with broad measures of consumer confidence. Here is a pair of overlays with the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (through the previous month) and the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index (also through the previous month).