Home-Price Index Slides, With 'No Sign of Bottom'

The prices of existing U.S. single-family houses extended their slide in most regions in December, trimming annual price gains, according to an index of major metropolitan areas released on Tuesday.

The composite month-over-month Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index of 10 metropolitan areas declined 0.8% to 222.01, unchanged year-over-year, S&P said on its Web site. The composite month-over-month Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index of 20 metro areas showed a 0.7% drop in December, a 203.07 reading, and a 0.5% year-over-year gain.

"The slide at this point is a good deal steeper then we saw at the beginning of the decade and we don't see any sign of a bottom," David Blitzer, S&P Index committee chairman, told CNBC. "These are the worst numbers in at least ten years."

Blitzer also told CNBC that the impact of the subprime mortgage market could further depress home prices: "The damage from the subprime mortgage market probably hasn't shown up in home prices yet," Blitzer said. "That will take a lot of buyers out of the market, and fewer buyers probably means weaker prices and less hope of a turnaround."

"Annual changes in home prices are either in decline, flat or yielding negative returns across all markets," added Robert J. Shiller, chief economist at MacroMarkets LLC, in a release. "All metro areas are showing smaller annual returns than those reported for November."

The newly published U.S. National Index, which has historically portrayed less volatile increases and declines, joins the other two composites in the steep decline that began in 2005, falling 0.7% over the quarter and ending the year at just 0.4% annual growth, Shiller added.

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index tracks the value of single-family homes across the country.

Standard & Poor's last week announced an expansion of its S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. Home Price Indexes to add a quarterly gauge of national home prices.

U.S. home prices rose 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2006 compared with the same quarter a year earlier, according to Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller National Index.

U.S. home prices were down 0.7% in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter, according to Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller National Index.