No End in Sight for US Housing Slump

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The housing slump is far from over.

Average home prices have tumbled to their lowest level in nearly a decade, according to the closely watched Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index.

A separate report from the Commerce Department says new home sales fell last month by the largest amount in more than a year.  The total fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 328,000 units.  That followed a 7.3 percent increase in February.

The numbers from both reports show the housing market remains under strain.

"My take is that things are improving year over year in the housing market in general but we have a very long and bumpy road to recovery," says Doug Lebda, CEO of the home loan site LendingTree.com.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index shows that prices fell in February from January in 16 of the 20 cities it follows.

Miami, San Diego and Phoenix were the bright spots in the report -- they were among the hardest hit cities in the housing crisis and showed price gains compared to a month ago.

Atlanta showed the weakest housing market; home prices in the city are down 17.3 percent compared to a year ago.  Chicago at 6.9 percent and Cleveland at 4.4 percent also saw steep declines.

Further, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa, Fla., posted new all-time lows, according to the index.

Average home prices across the United States are back to the levels they were in late 2002, according to S&P’s 20-City Composite Index.

New home sales numbers were revised higher for February, which is why the March drop in the government report was so large.

"What we have really is for the first quarter of the year a reasonably small but solid increase in home sales over the fourth quarter of last year," says David Crowe, chief economist at the National Association of Homebuilders.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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