WASHINGTON - The National Association of Home Builders said its housing market index held steady this month at a healthy 61.

That is "a good indication that stability is returning to the housing market now that mortgage interest rates have fallen in each of the last several months," said Robert Mitchell, the group's president and a homebuilder from Rockville, Md.

Homebuilders in a number of regions reported some slackening in demand, but builders feel that sales conditions are generally strong and are optimistic about future sales, Mr. Mitchell said.

The indexes of single-family home sales and of prospective-buyer traffic each fell 1 point from August, to 66 and 43 respectively. The index of expected sales in the next six months rose 4 points, to 72.

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