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Case-Shiller index hits new lows

The S&P/Case-Shiller Index, a leading indicator of U.S. housing prices, showed annual declines of 3.6% and 3.5% for the 10- and 20-city composites, respectively, for February 2012. This is a new low for February, which has not seen such levels since 2002. But the decline was less steep than in previous months, when it recorded a 3.9% drop in January and a 4.1% drop in December in year-over-year figures. 

In addition to the two composites, 15 of the 20 MSAs posted better annual returns in February compared with January. Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit fared worse in February, and Washington, D.C.’s rate remained unchanged.

Nine MSAs and both the 15 and 20-city composites posted new lows as of February 2012. This was the fifth consecutive month of double-digit negative returns for Atlanta and the lowest annual return in its 20-year history. Five of the 20 MSAs saw positive annual returns -- Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and Phoenix. Phoenix, which is one of the cities that fared the worst during the crisis, has now posted two consecutive months of positive annual returns and five consecutive positive monthly returns. However, it is still down 54.2% from its peak.

“While there might be pieces of good news in this report, such as some improvement in many annual rates of return, February 2012 data confirm that, broadly speaking, home prices continued to decline in the early months of the year,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices. “Nine MSAs -- Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa -- and both composites hit new post-crisis lows. Atlanta continued its downward spiral, posting its lowest annual rate of decline in the 20-year history of the index at -17.3%. The 10-city composite declined 3.6%, and the 20-city was down 3.5% compared with February 2011.”

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