The Wall Street Journal

26 January  2009

U.S. home prices fell in November, according to the S&P Case-Shiller home-price indexes, as yearly declines continued to abate.

The indexes showed prices in 10 major metropolitan areas fell 4.5% in November from a year earlier, while the index for 20 major metropolitan areas dropped 5.3% on the year.

Both indexes declined 0.2% compared with October. Adjusted for season factors, the 10-city index was flat on the month, while the 20-city composite fell 0.1%.

Separately, U.S. consumer confidence rose for the third consecutive month in January, according to a report released Tuesday.

David M. Blitzer, chairman of S&P’s index committee, noted how for the first time in at least two years, some markets posted home-price increases year-over year. Dallas, Denver, San Diego and San Francisco finally entered positive territory.

As of November, the 10-city index is down 30% from its mid-2006 peak, and the 20-city is down 29%. Nationally, home prices are at levels similar to late 2003.

Compared with a year ago, Las Vegas continued to be hit the hardest. It, along with Charlotte, Seattle and Tampa, posted new low index levels as measured for the past four years, meaning any gains they saw in recent months have been erased. Las Vegas posted a drop of 25%. Phoenix followed with a 14% decline. The best year-on-year performer was Dallas, which posted a 1.4% increase.

Phoenix also led month-to-month gainers, posting a 1.1% gain. Chicago and New York fared worst, falling 1.1% and 1% respectively.

Mortgage rates declined throughout November to hit record lows near month’s end.

The data come are the latest documenting an unsteady recovery in the U.S. housing market. This week, the Commerce Department reported that existing-home sales plunged in December after three straight months of increases lifted by a government tax credit. The previous week, the department said new home construction fell far more than expected in December, although building permits were issued at much higher-than-expected rate.

Consumer Confidence Ticks Up

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of consumer confidence increased to 55.9 in January from a revised 53.6 in December, which was originally reported as 52.9. The January reading was better than economists’ projection of 54.0, according to a survey conducted by Dow Jones Newswires.

The present situation index, a gauge of consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions, rose almost five points to 25.0 from a revised 20.2, first reported as 18.8.

Consumer expectations for economic activity over the next six months increased to 76.5 from a revised 75.9, first reported as 75.6.

“Consumer confidence rose for the third consecutive month, primarily the result of an improvement in present-day conditions,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Consumers’ short-term outlook, while moderately more positive, does not suggest any significant pickup in activity in coming months.”

Sentiment about the current labor markets improved in January. The percentage who think jobs are “hard to get” fell to 47.4% from December’s 48.1%. And those who think jobs are “plentiful” rose to 4.3%, from 3.1%.

The employment outlook showed signs of expected stability. The percentage of consumers expecting more jobs in the months ahead fell to 15.5% from 16.4% in December, while those expecting fewer jobs fell to 18.9% from 20.6%. But those expecting the same number of jobs in the next six months rose to 65.6% from 63.0% in December.

 

A Look at Case-Shiller, by Metro Area (January Update)

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home-price index, a closely watched gauge of U.S. home prices, was mostly flat in November from a month earlier.

The index declined 5.3% from a year earlier. For the first time in 19 months, some of the cities the 20-city index posted a year-over-year price gain. Dallas, Denver, San Diego and San Francisco are in positive territory from a year earlier.

“While these data do show that home prices are far more stable than they were a year ago, there is no clear sign of a sustained, broad-based recovery,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s.

Just five of the 20 areas saw monthly price gains in November. Phoenix posted the largest gain at 1.1%. Chicago fared the worst with a 1.1% drop.

Home prices nationwide had returned to levels similar to late 2003. By November the the 20-city was down 29.2% from its mid-2006 peak.

Below, see data from the 20 metro areas Case-Shiller tracks, sortable by name, level, monthly change and year-over-year change — just click the column headers to re-sort.

 

(About the numbers: The Case Shiller indices have a base value of 100 in January 2000. So a current index value of 150 translates to a 50% appreciation rate since January 2000 for a typical home located within the metro market.)

Home Prices, by Metro Area

Metro Area    November 2009    Change from October    Year-over-year change   
Atlanta 109.29 -0.80% -6.20%
Boston 153.97 -0.50% -0.70%
Charlotte 118.66 -0.30% -5.50%
Chicago 129.39 -1.10% -8.50%
Cleveland 104.75 -0.20% -2.50%
Dallas 119.92 0.00% 1.40%
Denver 128.29 -0.50% 0.50%
Detroit 72.59 -0.70% -13.00%
Las Vegas 104.22 -0.50% -24.50%
Los Angeles 169.72 0.80% -3.50%
Miami 149.08 0.00% -12.10%
Minneapolis 123.85 -0.50% -6.80%
New York 173.24 -1.00% -7.10%
Phoenix 111.96 1.10% -14.20%
Portland 150.38 0.30% -7.50%
San Diego 156.06 0.40% 0.40%
San Francisco 136.63 0.60% 1.00%
Seattle 148.56 -0.50% -10.60%
Tampa 139.66 -0.40% -13.20%
Washington 179.2 -0.50% -0.60%

Source: Standard & Poor’s and FiservData