Home prices fell in January in most US cities

WASHINGTON (AP) — Home prices fell in January for a fifth straight month in most major U.S. cities, as modest sales increases have yet to boost prices.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index released Tuesday showed that prices dropped in January from December in 16 of 19 cities tracked.

The steepest declines were in San Francisco, Atlanta and Portland. Prices increased in Miami, Phoenix and Washington. Price information for Charlotte was delayed and therefore not included in the report.

The declines partly reflect typical offseason sales. The month-over-month data are not adjusted for seasonal factors.

Still, prices fell in 17 of the 20 cities in January compared to the same month in 2011. The group’s nationwide index of prices has fallen 34 percent since the housing bust and is now at 2002 levels.

The continued drop in prices suggests the housing market remains weak, even after the best winter for home sales in five years and steady improvement in the job market.

“Despite some positive economic signs, home prices continued to drop,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of S&P’s index committee.

Eight cities — Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa, Fla. — are now back at 2000 levels or earlier. Only Denver, Detroit and Phoenix posted year-over-year increases.

Analysts were quick to note that prices are expected to rise modestly throughout much of 2012.

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