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Housing: A Drop, But No Record

The Case/Shiller index showed another deep drop in home prices for February, but the plunge was no record

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK—Home prices dropped sharply in February, but for the first time in 25 months the decline was not a record, another sign the housing crisis could be bottoming.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday showed home prices in 20 major cities tumbled by 18.6% from February 2008. That was slightly better than January's 19% and the first time since January 2007 the index didn't set a record.

The 10-city index slid 18.8%, the first time in 16 months its decline was not a record.

But the good news was mixed. All 20 cities in the report showed monthly and annual price declines, but half recorded annual records. Prices fell by more than 10% in 15 cities, including Las Vegas, San Francisco and Phoenix. In fact, Phoenix home prices have lost more than half their value since peaking in July 2006.

Yet, nine of the metros—including Dallas, Denver and Boston—showed improvement in their yearly losses compared to the month before.

"We will certainly need a few more months of data before we can determine if home prices are finally turning around," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee.

Last week, data for March home sales also offered a conflicting picture of the housing market. Existing home sales fell 3% from February to March, while new home sales seemed to have hit bottom.

Prices in the 20-city index have plunged 30.7% from their peak in the summer of 2006, and the 10-city index has lost more than 31.6%.

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