LOS ANGELES - Even a holiday gift from Uncle Sam could not brighten the outlook of home builders in December.
Yesterday, the National Association of Home Builders said its housing market index fell by one point to 16 this month, reflecting concern that job losses and a slow economic recovery will continue to stifle demand for new homes, despite the extension of a federal tax credit for buyers.
The reading is the lowest since June, when it fell to 15. This was also the first monthly decline since October.
The worsening outlook was something of a surprise.
New home sales got a lift this year from low mortgage interest rates and an $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers. The incentive was set to expire on Nov. 30, but Congress extended it through April and expanded it to include $6,500 for existing homeowners.
“This is shaping up to be a bumpy recovery period for the housing market,’’ said David Crowe, the association’s chief economist.
Unemployment dropped slightly in November to 10 percent, but many analysts expect the rate will climb in coming months.
Index readings below 50 indicate negative sentiment about the market. The last time it was above 50 was in April 2006.