U.S. home-builder sentiment slips but holds near 7-yr peak

NEW YORK Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:00am EST

NEW YORK Feb 19 (Reuters) - U.S. home-builder confidence in the market for single family homes eased slightly in February from last month's seven-year high as builders faced higher material costs, an index showed on Tuesday.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index edged down to 46 this month from 47, which had been its highest since April 2006. Economists polled by Reuters had expected it to rise to 48.

The National Association of Home Builders said ongoing uncertainties about job growth and rising costs for building materials had slowed the solid gains seen over the last year.

NAHB chief economist David Crowe also said the slight pause in early 2013 came as "builders adjusted their expectations to reflect the pace at which consumers are moving forward on new-home purchases."

He said building was likely "to continue on a modest rising trajectory this year."

A reading below 50 means more builders view market conditions as poor rather than favorable. The index has not been above 50 since April 2006.

A measure of sales expectations in the next six months, however, rose a point to 50, while a gauge of current sales conditions shed a point to 51. The prospective buyers index fell to 32 from a downwardly revised 36. (Reporting By Steven C. Johnson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)