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'Cautious optimism' for US housing market

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The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has declared itself ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the US housing market in 2013

In a preview of the year ahead, the respected body said encouraging signs were emerging in the critical sector across the Atlantic.

The American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index hit 53.2 in November 2012.

This was the fourth consecutive month of increasing workloads for designers and, significantly, the highest single reading since late 2007.

The residential sector has driven the recovery and RICS said its health was critical for the economy as a whole.

Its report added: ‘Demand is being supported by sustained, albeit modest, job growth and record affordability, and reflects increasing consumer confidence and household spending.’

It said confidence should improve as the fiscal cliff was dealt with, but that challenges existed.

‘Downside risks remain, such has the number of properties being held off the market and the foreclosure pipeline that could bring hundreds of thousands of distressed properties onto the market.

‘Additionally, weak credit growth and the fragile labour market remain the largest obstacles to a sustainable recovery.’

The report concluded: ‘A housing market collapse of the magnitude witnessed by the US will take many years to recoup fully all the losses.

It may well be that prices and activity levels will remain below their pre-recession peaks for sometime ahead.’

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