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Home Price Index Shows Weakening Market

Today, the S&P/Case Shiller Housing Index shows some worrying, if unsurprising, statistics about the housing market.

The good news is that the year-on-year index, the most-watched metric, gained, as from from March 2009 to March 2010 housing prices rose 2.35 percent. Economists had expected a gain of 2.5 percent. The bad news is housing prices declined 3.2 percent between the last quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010. And the non-seasonally adjusted housing index declined from February to March, the sixth straight decline in home prices. Las Vegas and Detroit continue to be the worst, and still-worsening, housing markets. From the press release:

“The housing market may be in better shape than this time last year; but, when you look at recent trends there are signs of some renewed weakening in home prices,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. “In the past several months we have seen some relatively weak reports across many of the markets we cover. Thirteen MSAs and the two Composites saw their prices drop in March over February. Boston was flat. The National Composite fell by 3.2% compared to the previous quarter and the two Composites are down for the sixth consecutive month.

“While year-over-year results for the National Composite, 18 of the 20 MSAs and the two Composites improved, the most recent monthly data are not as encouraging. It is especially disappointing that the improvement we saw in sales and starts in March did not find its way to home prices. Now that the tax incentive ended on April 30th, we don’t expect to see a boost in relative demand.”

The question is now whether housing prices are stabilizing, or whether they will continue to fall — particularly given how enormous the shadow inventory of homes is. You can see the worrying sign of a housing double-dip or stabilization on the solid line on the right side of the chart here.

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