Data through February 2012, released by S&P Indices for its S&P/Case- Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed annual declines of 3.6% and 3.5% for the 10- and 20-City Composites, respectively. This is an improvement over the annual rates posted for the month of January, -4.1% and -3.9%, respectively. In addition to the two Composites, 15 of the 20 MSAs posted better annual returns in February compared to January; Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit fared worse in February and Washington DC’s rate remained unchanged. Nine MSAs and both Composites posted new cycle lows as of February 2012. Atlanta had the only double-digit negative annual at -17.3%. This was the fifth consecutive month of double-digit negative returns for Atlanta and the lowest annual return in its 20-year history.. Five of the 20 MSAs saw positive annual returns – Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and Phoenix. Phoenix, which is one of the cities that fared the worst during the crisis, has now posted two consecutive months of positive annual returns and five consecutive positive monthly returns. However, it is still down 54.2% from its peak.
The chart above depicts the annual returns of the 10-City and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. In February 2012 both Composites fell by 0.8% over the month, resulting in annual returns of -3.6% and -3.5%, respectively.
“While there might be pieces of good news in this report, such as some improvement in many annual rates of return, February 2012 data confirm that, broadly-speaking, home prices continued to decline in the early months of the year,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. “Nine MSAs — Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa — and both Composites hit new post-crisis lows. Atlanta continued its downward spiral, posting its lowest annual rate of decline in the 20-year history of the index at -17.3%. The 10-City Composite declined 3.6% and the 20-City was down 3.5% compared to February 2011.
“Due to delays in reporting for Mecklenburg County, we did not publish a January index level for Charlotte, North Carolina last month. With this month’s report we have enough data to publish data points for both January and February. The unfortunate news is that it confirms that Charlotte is one of the cities that is still reaching new lows.
“Phoenix and Atlanta stand out this month in terms of their contrasting relative strength and weakness in the early 2012 housing market. At one end of the spectrum, we have Atlanta posting a double-digit, and lowest on record, annual rate at -17.3%. Atlanta has now recorded five consecutive months of double-digit negative annual rates and seven consecutive monthly declines. On the other hand, Phoenix has posted two consecutive months of positive annual rates, with its latest being +3.3%, and five consecutive positive monthly returns.”
As of February 2012, average home prices across the United States are back to the levels where they were in late 2002 for the 20-City Composite and to early 2003 levels for the 10-City Composite. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks through February 2012, the decline for both Composite is approximately 35%. February’s levels are new lows for both Composites in the current housing cycle.