U.S. home builders became more optimistic in May, according to
industry data released Monday. This was the second consecutive month of
improvement as attitudes among industry players are now at their
highest level since late last summer.

Along with earnings
from a major home improvement retailer out earlier in the day, the
report helps kick off a string of reports about the housing sector.

are looking for signs of stability in the industry, after the housing
collapse over the past couple years led to the financial turmoil that
has sent the economy into what could be the worst recession since the
Great Depression.

The National Association of Home Builders said
its index of sentiment rose in May to a level of 16. This was up from
the mark of 14 recorded for April.

The reading for the measure,
known as the Housing Market Index, represented the highest mark since
last September. The index reached a low of 8 in January and spent 5
consecutive months in single-digits before rising in April.

trough reached late last year and early this year represented the only
stretch of time the index has been below 10 in its more than 20-year
history. The index had reached as high as 78 during the housing bubble
of the late 1990's and early 2000's.

The rise in overall home
builder optimism comes with improved attitudes for both the present
situation and for the next several months, according to the survey data.

index for the present situation rose to 14 from April's level of 12.
This was the highest level since October. The index for the next 6
months climbed to 27 for May from a level of 24 in the previous month -
touching its highest mark since September.

The report's index of
traffic remained stable with April's reading at 13, though this
remained its highest level since late last summer.

There has been
rising hope of a turnaround in housing data, as many economists believe
stability in this key section of the economy will lead to an overall
return to growth.

Earlier on Monday, home improvement retailer Lowe's announced its
quarterly results. The company's profit was hurt by the weak economy
and fell from last year. But the bottom-line came in above the amount
predicted by market analysts, indicating that conditions in the housing
industry might not be as bad as many had feared.

On Tuesday, the
number one U.S. home improvement retailer, Home Depot, will release its
results. The company is also expected to see a decline in its earnings,
with a profit of $0.29 per share expected after a mark of $0.41 per
share was recorded last year.

Revenue at Home Depot is projected to fall more than 11%.

will also see the release of more data about the housing market in
general, with the government scheduled to release statistics on new
home building activity.

The cavalcade of housing reports will
continue next week, when reports on sales of newly-built homes and on
sales of previously-owned homes will be released.