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Year off to dismal start in home prices

Data released by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed further declines in U.S. home prices in January 2011. Of the 20 MSAs covered by the indices, 13 showed further deceleration in their annual growth rate. The same 11 cities that had posted recent index level lows in December 2010, posted new lows in January.

The 10-City Composite dropped 2.0%, and the 20-City Composite fell 3.1% from their January 2010 levels.

San Diego and Washington, D.C., were the only two markets to record positive year-over-year changes. These are the only two cities whose annual rates remained positive throughout 2010.  

“Keeping with the trends set in late 2010, January brings us weakening home prices with no real hope in sight for the near future,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's. “These data confirm what we have seen with recent housing starts and sales reports. The housing market recession is not yet over, and none of the statistics are indicating any form of sustained recovery. At most, we have seen all statistics bounce along their troughs; at worst, the feared double-dip recession may be materializing.”

Blitzer also said that he was seeing “renewed weakness” in some cities that were among the last to reach their peaks, including Atlanta; Charlotte; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle, where new lows are being recorded. Dallas, which peaked late, has so far stayed above its low mark of home prices in February 2009.