Out of approximately 350 metro areas tracked nationwide, 54 have returned to or surpassed their last normal levels of economic and housing activity, according to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI) for December. The LMI’s nationwide score of .86 indicates that the U.S. market is running at 86 percent of normal economic and housing activity based on current permits, prices, and employment data. Smaller metros accounted for most of the markets that are at or above normal levels. Baton Rouge, La., tops the list of major metros with a score of 1.42, or 42 percent better than its last normal market level, and Honolulu; Oklahoma City; Austin, Texas; Houston; and Pittsburgh were also high on the list. “The fact that more than 125 markets on this month’s LMI are showing activity levels of at least 90 percent of previous norms bodes well for a continuing housing recovery in 2014,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance, which co-sponsors the LMI report. | Read More