Buoyed by increased buyer traffic, builders reported an improved outlook in February, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released today.

The monthly index, which measures builders’ confidence in the housing market, rose one point this month to a reading of 9, which is a small but positive gain over January’s all-time low of 8.

More interest and visits from would-be buyers clearly contributed to the HMI’s uptick; the component measuring the traffic of prospective buyers jumped three points in February for a reading of 11. The current sales component also inched up, although only one point to a weak 7.

Future sales, however, remain hard to come by. That aspect of the index, which asks builders to assess their sales expectations for the next six months, dropped two points to a reading of 15, a new record low for that HMI component. “Clearly, the market for new single-family homes remains very weak at this time,” said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson, a home builder from Tulsa, Okla.

The recently passed economic stimulus package should help. So should a housing plan expected to be presented tomorrow by President Barack Obama.

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.