Home Prices Climb – For the second climb this year, U.S. prices edged higher in March as the housing recovery picked up traction, while gains in some of the hardest hit areas suggested the improvement was becoming more broad-based.
But consumer confidence cooled in May to its lowest level in four months, separate data showed on Tuesday, as Americans turned gloomy about the job market and the economic outlook.
The closely watched S&P/Case Shiller composite home price index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.1 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, though it fell shy of economists’ forecasts for a gain of 0.2 percent.
The housing market has been a thorn in the side of the broader economic recovery but the sector has been gathering momentum with new construction and sales rising in April.
“In my mind there is no question that housing has bottomed, in terms of home sales, home construction and home prices, but the recovery is still going to be very modest or very sluggish,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Prices in the 20 cities fell 2.6 percent from a year ago, an improvement from the 3.5 percent yearly decline seen last month. Seven of the 20 cities saw price increases from a year ago, including hard-hit Detroit and Phoenix.
“While a broad regional variation remains, the fact that some of the areas hardest hit during the housing downturn, such as Florida, Arizona and California, have seen gains in recent months is a positive sign that the gradual improvement in housing conditions is becoming somewhat broader based,” Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays, wrote in a note.
The report said that for the first quarter, while the pace of declines slowed, the indexes were still plumbing new post-financial-crisis lows. Prices were down 2 percent in the first three months of the year following a 3.9 percent decline in the last three months of 2011.