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U.S. home prices hover near lows

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Single-family home prices dipped in July, hovering above multi-year lows absent the homebuyer tax credit that ended in April, according a Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price report on Tuesday.

High U.S. unemployment and millions of foreclosed homes and distressed borrowers keep stalling a home price recovery, overshadowing high affordability and record low mortgage rates, economists agree.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas declined 0.1 percent in July from June on a seasonally adjusted basis, as expected in a Reuters poll. The dip followed a 0.2 percent June rise, which was revised down from a 0.3 percent increase.

Prices measured by S&P/Case-Shiller's 20-city index remain 27.9 percent below the peaks set in mid-2006, having edged up about 7 percent from a trough in April 2009.

"We still have a large oversupply of homes for sale and that's likely to keep prices soft well into next year," said Gary Shilling, president of A. Gary Shilling & Co. in Springfield, New Jersey.

Unadjusted for seasonal impact, the 20-city index gained 0.6 percent after June's 1 percent gain. A 0.4 percent rise was expected.

S&P, which publishes the indexes, also said home prices in the 20 cities index rose 3.2 percent from July 2009, a slower annual pace than the 4.2 percent increased in June.

Ten of the cities had annual gains and only Las Vegas set a new low, as the impact of the homebuyer tax credit faded away, S&P said. But the year-over-year growth rates slowed in 16 of the cities and both the 10- and 20-city composite indexes in July from the prior month.

"While we could still see some residual support from the homebuyers' tax credit, which covers purchases closing through September 30th, anyone looking for home prices to return to the lofty 2005-2006 levels might be disappointed," David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P, said in a press release.

Average single-family home prices have fallen to levels last seen in late 2003, according to S&P.

"Housing starts, sales and inventory data reported for August do not show signs of a robust market, and foreclosures continue," he said, adding "stable prices seem more likely."

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