Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose two points to 15 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for July. The gain largely offsets a three-point drop recorded in June, and marks the ninth time out of the past 10 months in which the index has held within the same three-point range. "The improvement in builder confidence in July is a positive sign that the outlook perhaps isn't quite as bleak as was feared in June," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "While builders continue to confront serious challenges with regard to competition from foreclosed properties that are priced below replacement cost, inaccurate appraisals of new homes, and a very restrictive lending environment for new home construction, select markets are showing gradual improvement as consumers begin to take advantage of very favorable buying conditions." Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor. "We view the upward movement in the July HMI as a correction from an exceptionally weak number in June that was at least partly attributable to negative economic news and the close of a disappointing spring selling season," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The strong rebound in sales expectations for the next six months likewise marks a return to trend. Basically, the market continues to bounce along the bottom, with conditions in some locations beginning to improve." Two out of three of the HMI's component indexes rebounded in July from declines in the previous month. The component gauging current sales conditions rose two points to 15, returning to its May level, while the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months rose seven points to 22, which is where it stood in April. The component gauging traffic of prospective buyers held even with the previous month, at 12. Regionally, the HMI inched up one point to 12 in the Midwest and posted three-point gains in both the South and West, to 17 and 14, respectively. Only the Northeast posted a decline, slipping two points to 15.