This Feb. 23, 2012, photo shows a auction sign in front of a home, in Salem, Ore. Home prices fell in December for a fourth straight month in most major U.S. cities, as modest sales gains in the depressed housing market have yet to lift prices. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

The national housing market took a hit in the latter half of 2011, falling to new lows not seen since the housing crisis began six years ago, according to data out Tuesday by S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

In the Washington area, which had remained one of the strongest markets during the housing crisis, the home price index fell 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared to the third quarter 2011.

The home prices index had been rising through most of 2011 but began to dip into negative territory in October. For the full year, the index fell 1.6 percent in Washington.

The figures released Tuesday provide further evidence of that the region’s housing market is still on shaky ground. Local real estate firm RealEstate Business Intelligence had previously reported that the median home price fell 1 percent in January.

Nationally, three composites of the Case-Shiller index, which track housing values in major metropolitan areas of the United States, fell to their lowest levels since the housing crisis began. The national composite fell by 3.8 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. The index is down 33.6 percent from its peak in mid-2006.

The index showed 18 of the 20 cities tracked by the index saw a monthly decline in December 2011 compared to November 2011. S&P’s 10 Home Price Index and 20 Home Price Index, also fell 3.9 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively.

“While we thought we saw some signs of stabilization in the middle of 2011, it appears that neither the economy nor consumer confidence was strong enough to move the market in a positive direction as the year ended,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee and the S&P Indices.

“After a prior three years of accelerated decline, the past two years has been a story of a housing market that is bottoming out but has not yet stabilized,” Blitzer said in a press release. “Up until today’s report we had believed the crisis lows of the composites were behind us...”

Only Miami and Phoenix showed slight improvements, both of them less than 1 percent.

Areas such as Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago topped the list for declines.

While the data shows a weaker housing market at the end of 2011, national data released by other housing groups since the beginning of 2012 has shown some encouraging signs. Confidence has growth among the nation’s home builders, although an index tracking that data is still well below a healthy market. And a report of existing home sales in January rose, although prices are not expected to rise because of the large inventory of homes for sale or in foreclosure.