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U.S. builder confidence highest in nearly 12 years


March 23, 2017
By NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz

March 23, 2017 – Optimism among single-family builders this month is the strongest it has been since 2005. Much of this positive sentiment stems from the widely anticipated reductions of government regulations. A prime example was the recent executive order to roll back the Waters of the United States rule that affects builders’ and developers’ wetlands permits. However, we can expect some moderation in builder confidence in the months ahead, as interest rates rise and headwinds persist for access to lots and labor.

As expected, last week the Federal Reserve increased the short-term federal funds rate for just the third time in the post-recession era. Much of the Fed’s stance is fuelled by a strengthening labour market, which added 235,000 jobs last month. As the rate of inflation approaches the 2% target rate, NAHB forecasts two additional rate hikes this year.

Additional price pressures can be seen on the supply side of the industry. Gypsum prices have increased more than 6% in the first two months of 2017, and softwood lumber prices rose almost 5% due to the ongoing lumber trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada. As housing starts continue to rise in the months and years ahead, additional sources of lumber will be required.

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