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Confidence among builders in the U.S. housing market plunged more than expected in September to the lowest level since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as painfully high inflation and rising borrowing costs forced potential buyers to pull back.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, which measures the pulse of the single-family housing market, fell for the ninth consecutive month to 46, marking the worst stretch for the housing market since the 2008 financial crisis.

Any reading above 50 is considered positive; prior to this year, the gauge has not entered negative territory since a brief – but steep – drop in May 2020.