Due to increased fear regarding job markets and continued home price declines, U.S. home builders may not see a bottom to the market until late 2009, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by Fitch Ratings. “As weak as housing has been, it can soften further,” said lead analyst Robert Curran in a media statement regarding the report. “Credit markets are still impaired, home prices continue to fall and now the general economy and, especially, employment numbers have taken a turn for the worse.” Future housing woes could be influenced by job loss, fear of job loss, poor consumer confidence, lack of income growth and possibly income contraction. Fitch analysts said no improvement in demand likely occurred in December of 2008, as low mortgage rates were “countered” by job loss and continued loss of home equity as prices dropped yet again. Coupled with low demand, an excess supply of homes continues to be “troubling” for analysts. “However, it is not just an inventory problem — there is also a negative psychology that has become pervasive,” analysts wrote in the report. “The expectation or fear is that home prices are vulnerable to further declines and buying now would be a mistake.” As a result of this consumer fear, stocks declined as much as 33 percent in the first nine months of 2008 for some home builders, according to data analyzed by Fitch. Major home builders that suffered the most included Beazer Homes USA (BZH) with a 15.4 percent decline, Centex Corp. (CTX) with the 33.5 percent drop, Lennar Corp. (LEN) with an 11.7 percent decline and KB Home (KBH) with a 6.2 percent drop from Jan. 2 to Sept. 30. There may be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, provided mortgage rates remain largely below the 5 percent mark, according to Fitch analysts that weighed in on the report. “Lower mortgage rates, depressed home prices and new economic stimulus programs will probably lead to a bottoming of certain housing metrics late in 2009, but not before there is more carnage among homebuilders,” the report’s author wrote. Read the report. Write to Diana Golobay at diana.golobay@housingwire.com.

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