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Homebuilders’ optimism chills because of weather

Snowstorms last week across the United States helped reduce homebuyer traffic to its slowest pace since April.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Snowstorms last week across the United States helped reduce homebuyer traffic to its slowest pace since April.

WASHINGTON — Confidence among US homebuilders plunged in February by the most on record as bad weather limited prospective buyer traffic and depressed sales.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo sentiment gauge slumped to 46 this month from 56 in January, figures from the Washington-based group showed Tuesday. Readings less than 50 mean more respondents reported poor market conditions than good. The measure was weaker than the most pessimistic projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

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Snowstorms last week from the South to the Northeast helped reduce homebuyer traffic to its slowest pace since April. Purchases and sales expectations also declined as builder confidence deteriorated from coast to coast, signaling construction will contribute less to economic growth at the start of 2014.

‘‘Significant weather conditions across most of the country led to a decline in buyer traffic last month,’’ NAHB xhairman Kevin Kelly, a homebuilder and developer from Wilmington, Del., said.

The February decrease was the biggest since monthly record-keeping began in 1985.

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