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The confidence of real estate agents in the Valley’s housing market has dipped slightly, probably fueled by the sharp rise in gasoline prices.

Confidence is still strong because other housing indicators have continued to improve, said Chris Heagerty, director of the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service.

The confidence level fell to 85 points in February, down from about 87 points in January. The index is produced by surveying real estate agents who have represented a buyer or seller in the past year.

“We don’t ask them why they feel this way, but we’ve had a couple months now of high gas prices and there’s a lot of talk about gas prices going higher,” Heagerty said. “This is an industry that is very dependent on driving people around in their cars.”

She pointed to a similar drop in the latest monthly index of consumer confidence, which dropped from 75.3 to 74.3. Oil prices were a factor in that drop, too.

Unlike the long-standing consumer index, the ARMLS index only began in December 2010.

“They are independent surveys but it’s interesting how they really do mimic each other,” she said.

The local real estate index reached its highest point in January at 87, up from a gloomy 57 in February 2011.

Agents became more confident as they watched housing prices rise, the glut of homes on the market dwindle, and foreclosures become less common.

The market is far from normal, but Heagerty said indicators have steadily improved for months.

The survey is sent to about 10,000 agents. It asks whether agents feel better, worse or the same about confidence in real estate, business climate and employment in the Valley when compared with six months ago and six months in the future.

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