Case-Shiller Chairman: Here’s Why There is Very Little, If Any, Good News About Housing

Have you ever tried to keep your head above water while doggy-paddling? The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows prices for the 10- and 20-city composites are lower than a year ago but still slightly above their April 2009 bottom. The 10-City Composite fell 2.6% and the 20-City Composite was down 3.3% from February 2010 levels. With an index level of 139.27, the 20-City Composite is virtually back to its April 2009 trough value (139.26); the 10-City Composite is 1.5% above its low.

Washington D.C. was the only market to post a year-over-year gain with an annual growth rate of +2.7%. Ten of the 11 cities that made new lows in January 2011 saw new lows again in February 2011. Detroit avoided another new low, managing a +1.0% increase in February over January, the only city with a positive monthly change.

David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s commented:

“There is very little, if any, good news about housing. Prices continue to weaken, trends in sales and construction are disappointing. Ten of the 11 MSAs that recorded index lows in January fell further in February. The one exception, Detroit, is 30% below its 2000 price level. The 20-City Composite is within a hair’s breadth of a double dip. Fourteen MSAs and both Composites have continued to decline month over-month for more than six consecutive months as of February.

Atlanta, Cleveland and Las Vegas join Detroit as cities with home prices below their 2000 levels; and Phoenix is barely above its January 2000 level after a new index low. The one positive is Washington D.C. with a positive annual growth rate, +2.7%, and home prices more than 80% over its January 2000 level. Other cities holding on to large gains from 11 years ago include Los Angeles (68.25%), New York (65.19%) and San Diego (55.05%).

Recent data on existing-home sales, housing starts, foreclosure activity and employment confirm that we are still in a slow recovery. Existing home sales and housing starts rose in March, but remain close to recent lows. Foreclosure activity showed decreases in mortgage delinquencies in the fourth quarter of 2010 but are still close to historic highs. The nation and 34 states registered a decline in their unemployment rates for March.

Let’s see if the market can continue climbing the wall of worry despite the continued hit to real estate (NYSE:IYR).

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