RTTNews - 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.

Economists 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.

The 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.

The 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%.

Tuesday 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.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com