"You are going to see the builders that continue to survive, the ones that are determined to make it," David Crowe, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders, said ahead of the trip to Nevada. He said many of his colleagues were comfortable that their business had "turned the corner". Yet the fate of Mr Crowe's industry remains in limbo. Recent housing data have been considerably softer than towards the end of last year, when hopes were high that the market had finally bottomed out. Vast swathes of America are still suffering from high foreclosure rates, high inventories of unsold homes and weak levels of new construction, the latter highlighted last week by news of a 4 per cent drop in December housing starts. Cities such as Las Vegas are suffering: house prices there have fallen by 27 per cent in the past year, and by 55 per cent since the crisis began, according to the latest Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index.