WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. homebuilders are a less pessimistic about the struggling housing market, but not enough to signal a recovery any time soon.
The National Association of Home Builders said Tuesday that its index of builder sentiment this month rose from 14 to 18. The index has been below 20 for all but one month during the past two years.
Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. It hasn't reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.
Last year, the number of people who bought new homes fell to its lowest level dating back nearly a half-century. Sales this year haven't fared much better.
Builders are struggling to compete with foreclosures, which have made the price of previously occupied homes more competitive. Many buyers are having difficulty obtaining loans or meeting higher down payment requirements. Low appraisals are scuttling some deals after contracts have been signed. Some buyers want to upgrade to a new house but are holding off because they can't sell their home.