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U.S. Home Prices Fall for First Time Since 1991: Study

Prices of existing U.S. single-family homes fell in the first quarter from a year earlier for the first time since 1991, the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller national home price index reported.

The quarterly index dropped 0.7% from the fourth quarter of 2006 and was down 1.4% from the first quarter of 2006.

"The fall of the national index into negative territory, after more than 15 years of positive annual growth, is a reaffirmation of the pullback in the U.S. residential real estate market," Robert J. Shiller, chief economist at MacroMarkets, said in a release.

"The national index was yielding solid returns as recently as a year ago," he added. "First quarter 2006 growth rates were up 11.5% versus Q1 2005, a sharp contrast to the returns we are seeing today."

House prices in March fell in 13 of the 20 metro areas covered by the index, S&P said in the release.

The composite month-over-month index of 20 metropolitan areas fell 0.3% to 200.89 in March from February and was down 1.4% from March 2006.

S&P said its composite month-over-month of 10 metropolitan areas dropped 0.4% in March to 219.54, or a 1.9% year-over-year decline.

Detroit and San Diego posted the biggest annual declines of 8.4% and 6.0%, respectively.

Phoenix and Las Vegas have seen the largest price slides from their peaks. In September 2005, Phoenix showed a 49.3% growth rate and Las Vegas jumped 53.2% in September 2004. Those cities in March had respective price drops of 3% an 1.6%.