U.S. home prices inch up in August

For the fifth consecutive month, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index rose in August, indicating slight increases in nationwide home prices. The 10-city and 20-city composites inched up about 0.2 percent on a non-seasonally-adjusted basis over the previous month, but remained unchanged when accounting for seasonal changes. The 20-city composite now stands at 142.84, 3.8 percent less than its August 2010 reading of 148.89. 

The index is calibrated so that a score of 100 equals housing prices in January 2000. It peaked at 206.52 in July 2006. 

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Half of the 20 metropolitan areas polled showed increased housing prices on a month-over-month basis, while 16 of them posted better annual returns than they did in July.

“The good news is continued improvement in the annual rates of change in home prices,” said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. “We cautioned that monthly increases in prices had to be paired with improvement in annual rates before anyone could declare that the market might be stabilizing … we see a modest glimmer of hope with these data.” Detroit and Washington, D.C. were the only two markets to show annual home price gains, while Atlanta and Las Vegas fared worst. Interestingly, Minneapolis showed the largest year-over-year decline, but has shown marked improvements in each of the last three months.

In the New York metropolitan area, prices gained 0.4 percent in August, but remain 3.4 percent less than their August 2010 levels. The area’s index now stands at 169.19, about where it was in April 2004. “The Midwest is one region that really stands out in terms of recent relative strength,” Blitzer said. — Adam Fusfeld