A report released by the National Association of Home Builders on Monday unexpectedly showed a substantial improvement in U.S. homebuilder confidence in the month of December. The report said the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index spiked to 76 in December from an upwardly revised 71 in November. Economists had expected the index to come in unchanged compared to the 70 originally reported for the previous month. With the unexpected jump, the housing market index reached its highest level since hitting 77 in June of 1999. "Builders are continuing to see the housing rebound that began in the spring, supported by a low supply of existing homes, low mortgage rates and a strong labor market," said NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde. The unexpected increase by the headline index came as the index gauging current sales conditions soared to 84 in December from 77 in November. The measure charting traffic of prospective buyers also climbed to 58 in December from 54 in November, while the component measuring sales expectations in the next six months edged up to 79 from 78. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release a separate report on new residential construction in the month of November. Housing starts are expected to climb to an annual rate of 1.344 million, while building permits are expected to drop to a rate of 1.410 million.
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