U.S. home prices fell in April, but overall annual declines are slowing, according to the national Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday.
On a month-to-month basis, prices in 20 selected cities fell 0.6% in April, with declines in 11 cities, compared with a decline of 2.2% in March. The overall annual pace of decline has slowed, said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee for Standard & Poor's, which compiles the Case-Shiller index.
"Thirteen of the 20 metro areas also saw improvement in their annual return compared to that of March. Furthermore, every metro area, except for Charlotte, recorded an improvement in monthly returns over March," Blitzer said in a statement. "While one month's data cannot determine if a turnaround has begun; it seems that some stabilization may be appearing in some of the regions."
Blitzer added that it will take time to tell whether a recovery has arrived as the market enters a seasonally strong period.
Continuing slower price declines are a "decent bet," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist with High Frequency Economics.
"The fly in the ointment is foreclosures, which tend to result in much lower prices and are an increasing proportion of transactions," Shepherdson wrote. "For now, though, this is clearly less bad than recently."
For the year ended April, prices were down 18.1%, compared with a decline of 18.7% for the year ended March. Among the 20 cities, the three largest annual declines were: Phoenix -- down 35.3%, Las Vegas -- down 32.2%, and San Francisco - down 28%. Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Portland and Seattle posted record annual declines in April.
The three cities with the smallest annual declines were: Denver - down 4.9%, Dallas - down 5%, and Boston - down 7.7%.
Given ongoing declines in data, analysts are skeptical about whether a housing bottom has been reached.
"The ongoing structural issues facing the housing market present a headwind on the pricing front and any meaningful increase in prices would have to come as labor market weakness persists and any hiring will likely begin at an anemic pace tracking trends seen in the most recent two recessions," wrote Dan Greenhaus of the market strategy group at Miller Tabak.
Falling home values have helped to plunge the global economy into chaos because financial institutions made too many bad bets that U.S. home prices would never fall. Homeowners have lost trillions of dollars of wealth.
Elsewhere Tuesday, the Conference Board reported that U.S. consumer confidence relapsed in June, falling to 49.3 from a slightly downwardly revised 54.8 in May, as worries grew about jobs and the economy. Following a large confidence jump in May, consumers grew more pessimistic in June about their present and future.
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