The US housing market sentiment remained flat in March after builder confidence for new single-family homes held steady from last month’s revised numbers.

The National Association of Home Builders’ housing market index for March remained at February’s revised level of 28, after five months of consecutive gains that took the reading to its best in more than four and a half years. Consensus forecasts for the index stood about the 30-mark as analysts absorbed positive data last month indicating an improvement in the US housing market.

“While builders are still very cautious at this time, there is a sense that many local housing markets have started to move in the right direction and that prospects for future sales are improving,” Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the NAHB, said.

“This is demonstrated by the fact that the HMI component measuring builder expectations continued climbing for a sixth straight month in March, to its highest level in more than four years.”

The index is based on a survey of homebuilders that rate the general economy and housing market conditions. While the current sales conditions component declined 1 point to 29 in March, the component looking at sales expectations in the next six months gained two points to 36, and the gauge of traffic of prospective buyers held unchanged at 22.

The data come ahead of keenly watched new home construction numbers to be released on Tuesday, existing home sales on Wednesday and Friday’s new home sales data.

Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, said: “After five straight gains, the index has paused, but remains consistent with sharply higher new home sales and housing construction than shown in the current official data. The survey continues to suggest that a revival in housing activity is under way.”

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