Home Prices in U.S. Decrease More Than Forecast

By Bob Willis
(c) 2010 Bloomberg News
Tuesday, December 28, 2010; 9:34 AM

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Home prices dropped more than forecast in October, a sign housing will remain a weak link as the U.S. recovery accelerates into the new year.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values fell 0.8 percent from October 2009, the biggest year-over-year decline since December 2009, the group said today in New York. The decrease exceeded the 0.2 percent drop projected by the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

A wave of foreclosures waiting to reach the market means home prices will remain under pressure in 2011, representing a risk to household finances. Federal Reserve policy makers this month said "depressed" housing and high unemployment remained constraints on consumer spending, reasons why they reiterated a plan to expand record monetary stimulus.

"We'll remain in negative territory for several more months," said Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Capital Inc. in New York, who forecast a year-on-year drop of 1.3 percent. "The housing market does remain weak and none of the recent data suggest a substantial pickup."

After retreating briefly, stock-index futures remained higher after the report as a jump in holiday sales boosted the outlook for consumer spending. The contract on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index maturing in March rose 0.2 percent to 1,255.5 at 9:23 a.m. in New York. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note rose to 3.36 percent from 3.33 percent late yesterday.

The median forecast was based on projections of 17 economists surveyed. Estimates ranged from an increase of 1.4 percent to a decline of 1.3 percent. Year-over-year records began in 2001. Prices rose 0.4 percent in the year ended September.

The gauge fell 1 percent in October from the prior month after adjusting for seasonal variations, matching September's drop which was larger than previously estimated. Unadjusted prices decreased 1.3 percent from the prior month.

Eighteen of 20 cities showed a decrease in prices in October, led by a 2.1 percent drop in Atlanta, and decreases of 1.8 percent in Chicago and Minneapolis. Denver and Washington were the only two that posted gains.

Six markets, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Seattle, Tampa and Portland, Oregon, reached their lowest levels in October since prices started to retreat.

"The double-dip is almost here," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P. Sales aren't "giving any sense of optimism."

The 20-city index was down 30 percent in October from its July 2006 peak.

The year-over-year gauge provides better indications of trends in prices, the group has said. The panel includes Karl Case and Robert Shiller, the economists who created the index.


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