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A gauge of confidence among home builders plunged in February, dropping to the lowest level in nine months, led by weaker views on present sales of single-family homes, according to data released Tuesday. The housing-market index dropped to 46 this month, signaling that builders, generally, are pessimistic about sales trends, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo, which cited "unusually severe weather conditions," among other factors. February's reading is down from 56 in January, and is the first period since May that the index has been below a key reading of 50 (readings over 50 signal that builders, generally, are optimistic). The builder-confidence gauge hit a recent peak of 58 in August, which was the highest level since 2005. Other recently released weak reports on upcoming home sales and retail sales may have also been hit by poor weather, economists say.