The National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index identifies metro areas that have improved based on housing permits, employment data, and house prices for at least six straight months. In January, the list of improving markets jumped to 76 from 41 in December. Bob Nielsen, NAHB’s chairman, said the fact that the list of improving housing markets nearly doubled in January shows a significant positive trend is developing and is made more significant by the geographic distribution of the list. As of January, the NAHB’s list has expanded to include markets in 31 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to geographic diversity, the index, which has been dominated by smaller markets, now includes more major cities such as Philadelphia, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, and Minneapolis. It was the fifth consecutive month the index has increased. More here.