Standard and Poor's released the Case Shiller Home Price Index this morning.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are constructed to accurately track the price path of typical single-family homes located in each metropolitan area provided. Each index combines matched price pairs for thousands of individual houses from the available universe of arms-length single family homes sales data. The indices have a base value of 100 in January 2000; thus, for example, a current index value of 150 translates to a 50% appreciation rate since January 2000 for a typical home located within the subject market.

The size of the housing market combined with the broad influences it has over the economy make the real estate sector a reliable leading indicator of economic activity. Real estate is one of the first sectors to contract when a recession is looming and one of the first to show signs of recovery when economic activity begins to improve.

Last month, S&P Case/Shiller Home Price data indicated the housing market continued to stabilize in 18 of the 20 metropolitan areas surveyed in July. Thirteen of the 20 metro areas saw prices increase for three or more consecutive months, this trend indicated that the deflationary spiral in the housing market may have come to an end. In July the 20 city index rose 1.6% and the 10 city composite increased by 1.7%.

This month, the S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index continued to improve as prices in 17 of 20 metro cities increased in August, albeit at a slower pace than July. Overall, the 20-city index rose 1.2%, better than economist expectations for a read of +0.7% and the 10-city home price index increased at a rate of 1.3%. Year over year the 20-city index is 11.3% lower, again better than the market's expectation of -11.9%.

From the S&P/Case Shiller Press Release...

Data through August 2009, released today by Standard & Poor’s for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, show that the annual rate of decline of the 10-City and 20-City Composites improved compared to last month’s reading. This marks approximately seven months of improved readings in these statistics, beginning in early 2009.

The chart above depicts the annual returns of the 10-City and 20-City Composite Home Price Indices, declining 10.6% and 11.3%, respectively, in August compared to the same month last year. Nineteen of the 20 metro areas and both Composites showed an improvement in the annual rates of decline with August’s readings compared to July. Cleveland was the only exception.

Broadly speaking, the rate of annual decline in home price values continues to improve” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. “The two Composites and 19 of the 20 metro areas showed an improvement in the annual rates of return, as seen through a moderation in their annual declines. Looking at the monthly data, 17 of the MSAs and both Composites saw price increasesed in August over July. While many of the markets remain down versus this time last year, the relative rate of decline has shown some real improvement. California, in particular, has seen some real positive prints in recent months. We see this general trend whether you look at the as-reported data or the seasonally adjusted figures. Once again, however, we do want to remind people of the upcoming expiration of the Federal First-Time Buyer’s Tax Credit in November and anticipated higher unemployment rates through year-end. Both may have a dampening effect on home prices.”

The chart above shows the index levels for the 10-City and 20-City Composite Indices. As of August 2009, average home prices across the United States are at similar levels to where they were in the autumn of 2003. From the peak in the second quarter of 2006 through the trough in April 2009, the 10-City Composite is down 33.5% and the 20-City Composite is down 32.6%. With the relative improvement of the past few months, the peak-to-date figures through August 2009 are -30.2% and -29.3%, respectively.

In terms of annual declines, all metro areas and the two composites remain in negative territory, albeit most showing an improvement over the previous month’s figures. Dallas and Denver are continuing their trend from the past month, edging closer into positive territory with August figures of -1.2% and -1.9%, respectively. In addition, both New York and San Diego have emerged out of double-digit declines. New York was down 9.6% in August and San Diego was down 8.9%.

In the monthly data, only Charlotte, Cleveland and Las Vegas reported monthly declines in August over July. Minneapolis and San Francisco reported positive returns greater than +2.0%, and nine of the MSAs plus the two Composites reported monthly returns greater than +1.0%.

Since its launch in early 2006, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices have published, and the markets have followed and reported on, the non-seasonally adjusted data set used in the headline indices. For analytical purposes, Standard & Poor’s does publish a seasonally adjusted data set covered in the headline indices, as well as for the 17 of 20 markets with tiered price indices and the five condo markets that are tracked. A summary of the monthly changes using the seasonally adjusted (SA) and non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) data can be found in the table below.


Another report that indicates the housing market continues to stabilize.

Just as we discussed in the two most recent housing data releases,Existing Home Sales and Housing Starts, while we are encouraged by the trend of rising home price, we are unable to provide a forward looking outlook that does not include skepticism regarding the extent to which the perceived recovery will continue.

Indeed, falling home prices have rebounded as home sales increased thanks to historically low mortgage rates, the FTHB tax credit, and record home affordability. However, when looking ahead, economic assumptions are distorted by the question: Can Housing Continue to Stabilize?

While the true test of stabilization will come in the near future when the tax credit expires, there several long term 'issues' that must be overcome before a housing stabilization can sustain momentum and evolve into a widely accepted recovery (accepted by home buyers, economists, and the market).

Just a few: Pending foreclosures, HAMP re-defaults, tightening lending guidelines, further job losses, a lack of new job creation, weaker borrower credit profiles, appraisal discrepancies, shadow inventory, the Federal Reserve's exit from the secondary mortgage market....