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Signs of stability emerge in the U.S. housing market

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7 2012 7:28 a.m. MDT

Each month, the S&P/Case-Schiller home price index is released. Due to the timing of information received, the most recent index data is through May 2012. Overall, the housing price activity reported through May is beginning to show some signs of pricing stability returning to the U.S. housing market.

Two primary indexes are tracked by Case-Schiller. One index tracks housing prices in 10 of the larger metropolitan areas in the U.S. and the other commonly referenced index expands the house price tracking to consider 20 of the larger housing markets. In comparing the April average home price to the May average home price, both of the 10 city and 20 city indexes reported a relatively healthy 2.2 percent increase.

As these indexes track overall house price activity, the mix of new and previously occupied homes may differ from one reporting geography to another.

In a sign of a broadening base of overall price stabilization, none of the 20 cities reported new 2012 pricing lows in May. Yet as compared to the index levels at the same point in 2011, the 10 city index in May did show a slight decrease in overall values of 1 percent. The more geographically diverse 20 city Case-Schiller index also showed some weakness as compared to the same period in 2011. With a reported decrease of 0.7 percent, this broader index revealed a slightly broader level of strength as compared to the 10 city results.

The metropolitan area reporting the largest negative comparison to the same point in 2011 was Atlanta with a year-over-year change of negative 14.5 percent. On the positive side of this year-over-year comparison, Phoenix reported the highest result with a positive 11.5 percent increase.

These two areas reported much more dramatic annual price changes, as compared to the other 18 geographies measured. Most of the other 18 metropolitan areas were within a positive or negative 4 percent price change range, as compared to the same point in 2011.

Spring and early summer are traditionally the more active times of year for housing activity. As a result, prices tend to firm up somewhat during these periods. A continuation of the most recent positive house price activity through these more active times of year will be a very positive longer term indication of recovery in the U.S. housing market.

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