Freddie Mac said today that the U.S. housing market is sending mixed signals.  Most markets, according to the company's Multi-Indicator Market Index (MiMi) remain weak even though mortgage delinquencies are declining and local employment is improving.  House price gains and attractive mortgage rates are also apparently not motivating buyers.

The national MiMi value stands at -3.01 points, improving only 0.05 point from March to April.  The three month trend was an increase of 0.07 points, considered flat.  However, on a year-over-year basis, the MiMi improved by 0.65 points.

MiMi is designed to monitor and measure the stability of the housing market nationally and in the states and 50 top metro markets relative to the long-term stable range in each.  The index combines proprietary Freddie Mac data with current local market data on home purchase applications, payment-to-income ratios (changes in home purchasing power based on house prices, mortgage rates and household income), proportion of on-time mortgage payments and the local employment picture.  The data is used to produce a composite number for each locality.   MiMi also indicates whether each market is trending closer to, or further away from its stable range.  The nation's all-time MiMi low of -4.49 was in November 2010 when the housing market was at its weakest.

Ten states and the District of Columbia are in their stable range with North Dakota, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, Louisiana and Alaska ranking in the top five. Four of the 50 metro areas are also considered stable; San Antonio, Houston, Austin and New Orleans.

The most improved states month-over-month were Illinois, Nevada and Tennessee all tied at +0.12, and Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas were each up 0.09.  Compared to one year ago the most improving states remained unchanged: Florida (+1.73), Nevada (+1.52), Texas (+0.98), South Carolina (+0.95) and California (+0.89).

The areas most improved from the previous month were Las Vegas and Providence (+0.13), Buffalo (+0.12) and Chicago (+0.11), while Houston, Memphis, Nashville and San Antonio all tied at +0.10.  The most improving metros remained unchanged from one year ago; Miami (+2.25), Orlando (+1.75), Las Vegas (+1.60), Tampa (+1.46), and Riverside (+1.31).

Fourteen states and 21 metros showed an improving three month trend in April compared to 42 states and the District of Columbia and 44 metros which were improving on a three month timeline one year ago.

Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said, "With the latest release of MiMi we're seeing very slow improvement on the housing front with most markets still trying to move beyond stall speed. The MiMi indicators that are improving across the board show the local jobs picture getting better and seriously delinquent rates continuing to come down. Both indicators are critical to decreasing distress in local markets, but that's also putting more pressure on markets with thinning inventory, especially where short sales have fallen off dramatically. However, as you look at each of the individual markets MiMi tracks, they have their own unique dynamics and show housing markets recovering at different paces."

Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer called Texas a standout in the recent data with three of its cities making the top five MiMi spots.  However, he said South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Ohio have also done well since the first of this year.  "In fact, those metro areas that are closest to joining the handful of markets that have already achieved their stable range of housing activity are Pittsburgh and Oklahoma City, as is the state of Oklahoma. And solid jobs gains, attractive mortgage rates and good affordability will help this trend spread to even more markets. However, income growth and greater inventory is just as important if we're going to sustain any type of meaningful housing recovery."