The number of improved U.S. local housing markets edged down in July, indicating that the housing recovery tapered its momentum, a leading industry report showed on Monday. The number of improved markets in July dipped to 255, down from 263 in June, according to the Improving Markets Index (IMI) released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). But the figure was still more than triple the number in July 2012. \"This is the sixth straight month in which at least 70 percent of all U.S. metros have qualified for the Improving Markets Index, \" said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson. The IMI traces housing markets throughout the country that are showing signs of improved economic health, employment growth and housing price appreciation. A metropolitan area must see improvement in all three measures for at least six consecutive months before being included on the list. \"Based on recent trends in home prices, housing permits and employment, the outlook for a continued housing expansion remains very positive for the remainder of 2013,\" said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.