March 17, 2020 / 2:02 PM / 12 days ago

U.S. homebuilder sentiment dips in March; coronavirus a worry

WASHINGTON, March 17 (Reuters) - Sentiment among U.S. single-family builders fell slightly in March, but the results of the survey published on Tuesday did not fully reflect the coronavirus pandemic and confidence is expected to decline in the coming months.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index slipped two points to a still relatively high reading of 72 this month amid a dip in sales expectations over the next six months.

“It is important to note that half of the builder responses in the March HMI were collected prior to March 4, so the recent stock market declines and the rising economic impact of the coronavirus will be reflected more in next month’s report,” said NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz.

“Overall, 21% of builders in the survey report some disruption in supply due to virus concerns in other countries such as China. However, the incidence is higher among builders who responded to the survey after March 6, indicating that this is an emerging issue.”

The coronavirus outbreak has led economists to predict a U.S. recession by the second quarter of this year. The Federal Reserve on Sunday slashed interest rates to near zero and pledged hundreds of billions of dollars in asset purchases and backstopping foreign authorities with the offer of cheap dollar financing. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the coronavirus was having a “profound” impact on the economy. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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