Home prices in the United States rose again in January, marking the eighth consecutive month of increases, Standard & Poor's closely-watched index showed Tuesday.Another notable point is that the year-over-year measurements of the study's city composites were the closest they've been to posting an increase in nearly three years.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the 10-city and 20-city composites of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices edged up 0.4 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, from December to January. The non-seasonally adjusted numbers for the 10-city and 20-city readings slipped 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, but as economists at IHS Global Insight explained in a research note released to DSNews.com, ""the key figuresÃ¢â‚¬Â¦are the most recent seasonally adjusted monthly numbers.""
After adjustments, home prices were up in 12 of the 20 cities tracked on a month-to-month basis, and nine cities posted year-over-year increases.
S&P's 10-city price index for January was unchanged versus where it was a year ago, and the 20-city composite was down only 0.7 percent from January 2009. According to the ratings agency, the annual rates for the two composites have not been this close to positive since January 2007.
David Blitzer, chairman of S&P's index committee, called the report ""mixed,"" noting that although the year-over-year data for all 20 cities studied is showing continued improvement, the rebound in housing prices seen last fall is fading.
""Fewer cities experienced month-to-month gains in January than in December 2009, on both a seasonally adjusted and unadjusted basis,"" Blitzer said.
He also pointed out that in four cities Ã¢â‚¬" Charlotte, North Carolina; Las Vegas; Seattle; and Tampa, Florida Ã¢â‚¬" prices reached new index lows as measured by the current housing cycle. In Tampa, prices are now down 42 percent from their peak, and in Las Vegas they've dropped a debilitating 55.8 percent.
On a brighter note, San Francisco and Minneapolis are 15.2 percent and 12.9 percent above their trough values.
Overall, as of January 2010, average home prices across the United States are at similar levels to where they were in the autumn of 2003, S&P says. The company stated matter-of-factly in its report, ""[W]e can't say we're out of the woods yet.""
Patrick Newport, IHS Global Insight's U.S. economist, agrees. He says going forward, forces that will bring home prices back down are mounting.
Newport points out that demand has dropped significantly since the first homebuyer tax credit expired, and the second credit, up to now, is having minimal effects. He adds that the housing glut is still near record highs and foreclosures - which hit an all-time high at the end of 2009, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association - are likely to go even higher.
""Our view is that despite this [S&P] report, prices have further to fall Ã¢â‚¬" about another 5 percent,"" Newport said.