The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index released today inched up 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted reading of 145.49. The index was off 5.3 percent from November last year, nearly matching analyst’s estimates that it would fall by 5.1 percent.
The index is now up 3.4 percent from its bottom in May, but still 30 percent below its peak in May 2006.
Phoenix and San Francisco posted the highest month-to-month gains on a seasonally adjusted basis, while New York and Chicago had the largest declines.
Recent price gains have been fueled by a federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers, who rushed to purchase homes ahead of a Nov. 30 deadline. Congress eventually extended the deadline into the spring, and expanded the program to include a tax credit for current homeowners.
While prices have risen steadily on a national basis, some economists predict they will dip again early this year because of high unemployment and foreclosures.
“Until we get job growth, we won’t get complete healing of the housing market,” said Jeff Humphreys, an economist with the University of Georgia.
Humphreys said data for December and January could show price declines due to a lull in buyer activity after the tax credit was extended.
Rising prices are important to the economic recovery because they make homeowners feel wealthier and lead them to spend more money. They also help millions of homeowners who owe more to the banks than their houses are worth.