U.S. housing market data is mixed bag

In February, the housing market showed mixed signals, with annual declines of 3.6 and 3.5 percent for the 10- and 20-city composites, respectively, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price indices for January, released today. Of the 20 metropolitan statistical areas the survey covered, 15 showed better annual returns in February compared to January, however, nine metropolitan statistical areas — Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa — hit new post-crisis lows, according to the report.

Miami, Phoenix and San Diego were the only MSAs to record positive monthly returns in February.

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Atlanta had the only double-digit negative annual decline, at 17.3 percent. This was the fifth consecutive month of double-digit negative returns for Atlanta and the lowest annual return in its 20-year history, the report shows. However, Phoenix, one of the cities hit hardest by the financial crisis, has shown gains year-over-year for two months consecutively and month-over-month gains for five months consecutively.

As The Real Deal has previously noted, Case-Shiller data is suspect when it comes to New York City, where the majority of homes are not single-family dwellings, which is all that the index measures.

“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 Standard & Poors. — Guelda Voien

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