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New Year's Eve rang in another rebounding month for Tampa Bay's housing market, where home sales jumped 18 percent over December 2011, Multiple Listing Service data show.

The best sales trends in 5 years drive US homebuilders' confidence higher for 8th month in a row.

LOS ANGELES (AP)  -- Confidence among U.S. homebuilders inched up this month, to the highest level in more than six and a half years, as builders reported the best market for newly built homes since the housing boom.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday increased 2 points to 47 from a revised 45 in November. That's the highest reading since April 2006, just before the housing bubble burst. It has been trending higher since October 2011, when it stood at 17. 

The latest index, which is based on responses from 441 builders, reflects growing optimism that a turnaround in housing will endure after years of stagnation. A gauge of traffic by prospective buyers increased 1 point to 36, also the highest reading since April 2006.

More people have started looking to buy homes, encouraged by a gradually improving economy, a steady rise in home values and mortgage rates that have been low all year. At the same time, the inventory of previously occupied homes available for sale has fallen sharply, reducing the competition for newly built homes.

Builders are locking up more land and ramping up construction. All told, builders broke ground on new homes and apartments in October at the fastest pace in more than four years.

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