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U.S. homebuilder sentiment ticks up in March, still sour

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[March 18, 2014]  NEW YORK (Reuters)  U.S. homebuilder sentiment edged up in March but sentiment remained mostly poor as concerns linger, the National Association of Home Builders said on Monday.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index rose to 47 in March from 46 in February, the group said in a statement. February's decline was the largest ever month-to-month, and economists polled by Reuters had predicted the index would rebound to 50 in March.

Readings below 50 mean more builders view market conditions as poor than favorable. The index had been above 50 for eight straight months before February's slump.

"A number of factors are raising builder concerns over meeting demand for the spring buying season," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe in a statement.

"These include a shortage of buildable lots and skilled workers, rising materials prices and an extremely low inventory of new homes for sale."

The single-family home sales component rose to 52 from 51. The gauge of single-family sales expectations for the next six months dipped to 53, the lowest since May, from 54. Prospective buyer traffic rose to 33 from 31.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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