Confidence among U.S. homebuilders dropped in February to a nine-month low as potential buyers stayed away, interrupting the steady progress residential real estate had built over the course of 2015.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index decreased to 58 in February from a revised reading of 61 the prior month, figures from the Washington-based group showed Tuesday. Readings greater than 50 mean more respondents reported good market conditions.

Stable employment gains, muted firings and a nascent acceleration in wages are helping support U.S. consumers considering a home purchase, even as fears build around a potential global recession. Borrowing costs have so far remained close to record lows even after the Federal Reserve raised the interest rate in December.

“Builders are reflecting consumers’ concerns about recent negative economic trends,” David Crowe, NAHB chief economist, said in a statement. “Historically low mortgage rates, steady job gains, improved household formations and significant pent-up demand all point to a gradual upward trend for housing in the year ahead.”

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 48 economists called for a February reading of 60. Estimates ranged from 57 to 62. The gauge reached a 10-year high of 65 in October.


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