The Improving Markets Index (IMI) from the NAHB and First American Financial nearly doubled this month, increasing to 76 metropolitan areas from a December total of 41. This drastic jump in markets that have demonstrated gains in employment rates, house prices, and single-family housing permits for at least the past six months is a good sign—it might even indicate that housing may improve more than predicted in 2012, according to NAHB analysts. The IMI list has grown every month since it was launched in September 2011, but this is the biggest gain yet. Another hopeful sign is that among the 40 new areas now on the IMI (five dropped off making the total gain only 35), several larger cities were added, which means an economic upturn may become evident on a national level in the near future. The bigger cities added to the list include Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Denver, Cincinnati, and Dallas. Texas has the most areas on the list, which experts link to jobs created by the state’s alternative energy production programs. NAHB analysts and economists also state that except for Texas, the geographic spread of the IMI provides “compelling evidence that the current economic and housing recovery is diverse.”