U.S. home prices continue decline

The S&P/Case-Schiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed home prices were down 3.9% from a year earlier, although that was a slight improvement from the 5.8% decline in the second quarter.

Signs of a recovery are still lacking in the U.S.

“Any chance for a sustained recovery will probably need a stronger economy,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices.

But he said “the plunging collapse of prices seen in 2007-2009 seems to be behind us.”

The stronger economy in the U.S. capital of Washington D.C. reflected the only major U.S. city covered in the national index to show a gain in home price since last year, up 1%. Washington was also up 1.2% in the third quarter compared to the second quarter, also the only gain over that period of the 20 cities covered by S&P/Case Schiller.

But Blitzer said it was “disturbing” to see three three cities post new lows in prices – Las Vegas, Atlanta and Phoenix. Atlanta actually posted a record low rate, falling 5.9% in September over August. The Georgia city was also down 9.8% from a year earlier, which was the largest such decline of any U.S. city.

Phoenix, a popular choice of Canadian investors, saw prices decline 6.5% from a year earlier in the third quarter.

“The markets are fairly thin, and the relative lack of closed transactions might be exacerbating the downside,” said Blizter. “The relative good news is that 14 cities saw improvement in their annual rates of change, versus the six that weakened.”

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