The National Association of Home Builders Leading Markets Index measures the number of metropolitan housing markets nationwide that have returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity based on current permit, price, and employment data. According to the most recent release, the overall housing market is now running at 88 percent of normal activity, with 83 percent of local markets having improved over the past year. In fact, just since last month’s report, nearly 28 percent of metro areas saw their score rise. Kevin Kelly, NAHB’s chairman, said things are getting better overall and, with the housing market now entering the spring buying season, the fact that the nation’s economy is headed in the right direction is a very promising sign. Though the improved markets are dominated by smaller metros in the middle of the country experiencing growth due to an energy boom, regions outside of the energy states are starting to post gains as well, with areas like Los Angeles and San Jose joining the list of major metros showing a recovery. David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist, said 2014 should be a strong year for housing and the overall economic rebound. More here.