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Homebuilder optimism up for 5th straight month

Homebuilders are feeling more upbeat, but there's still a long way to go before the industry can pop the corks on the bubbly.

For the fifth consecutive month, homebuilders are feeling upbeat about prospects for the market in single-family homes, offering another positive signal for the depressed housing industry.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index rose to 29 from 25 in February, hitting the highest level in four years, the National Association of Home Builders said on Wednesday

The index has climbed 15 points since September and is now at its highest level since May 2007.

Builders have generally become more hopeful during that stretch about current sales, sales six months out, and foot traffic, the report shows.

“Builder confidence has doubled since September as measured by the HMI,” said NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “Given the recent improvements in new home starts and the increasing number of markets included in the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index, this consistency suggests that the housing market is moving toward more sustainable growth.”

Even with the brighter outlook, the industry has a long way to go. Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn't reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.