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Case-Shiller's 20 cities

Home prices still rising in June, but at a slower pace

NEW YORK -- Home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose at a slower pace in the year ended in June, as declining affordability and weak wage gains kept appreciation in check.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values increased 8.1 percent from June 2013, the smallest 12-month gain since January 2013, the group reported Tuesday in New York.

Price gains are slowing as more houses are coming up for sale and investors retreat to the sidelines.

That, combined with an improving job market, could put homeownership within reach of more Americans grappling with disappointing wage growth and strict lending rules.

“We’re seeing more inventories coming on line, which is putting downward pressure on prices,” Anika Khan, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, N.C., said before the report.

“In general, we have seen prices rise at a faster pace than the fundamentals would call for. There’s a normalization happening.”

Another report confirmed price gains are decelerating. Property values rose 0.8 percent in the second quarter from the previous three months after increasing 1.3 percent at the start of the year, according to figures from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Seasonally adjusted, prices in the 20-city Case-Shiller index dropped 0.2 percent in June from the prior month. Unadjusted prices climbed 1 percent.

All 20 cities in the index showed a year-over-year gain, led by a 15.2 percent climb in Las Vegas and a 12.9 percent advance in San Francisco.

Cleveland showed the smallest year-to-year increase, with prices rising 0.8 percent.

San Diego's year-to-year gain was 10.16 percent and that in Los Angeles was 10.52 percent. Phoenix showed a 6.95 percent price gain.

Tuesday’s report included national figures that are now being reported on a monthly basis.

U.S. prices dropped 0.1 percent in June from the prior month after adjusting for seasonal variations, the report showed. They were up 6.2 percent from June 2013.

Better gauge

The year-to-year gauge for the 20 cities, based on records dating back to 2001, provides better indications of trends in prices, the group has said.

The panel includes Karl Case and Robert Shiller, the economists who created the index.

Residential real estate has yet to bounce back fully from a cold and wet winter that slowed sales early this year.

Contracts on new homes fell unexpectedly in July to a 412,000 annualized pace, their weakest level since March, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

Still, there are signs of progress. Construction rebounded last month, with starts climbing 15.7 percent to a 1.09 million annualized rate.

Resales of existing homes also picked up, increasing to a 5.15 million pace, the best showing since September, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Retailers with fortunes tied closely to the housing market, including Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) and Lowe’s Cos. (NYSE: LOW), see plenty of room for improvement.

Nashville-based furnishings merchant Kirkland’s Inc. (Nasdaq: KIRK) last week lowered its outlook for the year, with Chief Executive Officer Robert Alderson calling the economic recovery “erratic” and “limp.”

Corporate outlook

“We would still prefer a better jobs environment and a housing market to feel more comfortable with the state of the consumer,” Alderson said on Aug. 21.

“In a country mired in political stalemate and totally lacking focus on economic growth, it’s exceedingly difficult to expect to return to historic levels of economic growth or a return of sustained optimism to nurture a healthy jobs market and a growing housing market,” Alderson said.

Cheaper borrowing costs are helping. The average rate on a 30-year, fixed mortgage was 4.1 percent in the week ended Aug. 21, down from 4.53 percent at the start of January, according to Freddie Mac in McLean, Va.

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