The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index dropped back a point this month, to 19 from 20 in April, as builders assessed the spring selling season that wasn't.

The NAHB seized upon the news as a wedge with Congress and the Bush Administration, which it hopes will enact a housing market recovery bill that will provide a temporary home-buyer tax credit. "A temporary home-buyer tax credit is just the incentive that many prospective home buyers need to go forward with a purchase and help kick-start a housing and economic recovery," said NAHB President Sandy Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va..

NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders chimed in as well: "The latest HMI shows that even fewer builders now foresee market conditions improving over the next six months compared with our April survey, and builder ratings of buyer traffic through model homes also have dropped off over the past month on a seasonally adjusted basis. This certainly adds fuel to the argument that targeted policy stimulus, in the form of a temporary tax credit for home buyers, is essential to halt the housing downswing and remove the heavy drag being exerted by housing on overall economic growth."

The HMI component index gauging current sales conditions declined one point to 17 in May, its lowest level since the series began in January 1985, and that which gauges sales expectations for the next six months declined three points to 27. The component gauging traffic of prospective buyers declined two points to 17.

The HMI fell in three out of four regions in May; down four to 18 in the Northeast; down three to 12, an all-time low, in the Midwest; and down two to 22 in the South. The West gained three to 20 but remained well below the level of a year earlier.