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Home resale prices drop again in November

Canadian home resale prices fell for a third straight month in November, a report showed today, confirming that the once-hot market is cooling under pressure from higher interest rates and a slowing economy.

The Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes in six metropolitan areas, showed overall prices were down 0.2 percent in November from October.

This was its narrowest fall in three months. The index had month-on-month declines of 0.4 percent in October and 1.1 percent in September after a run of 16 consecutive increases.

Overall prices were up 4.9 percent from a year earlier, its smallest 12-month increase since December 2009.

After taking a brief hit from the financial crisis, Canada's housing market broke away from the global trend to record double digit price gains in late 2009 and early 2010, boosted by low mortgage rates and healthy banking system.

This post-crisis property boom help speed Canada's recovery from recession. But both the sector and broader economy have cooled as the central bank hiked interest rates and global uncertainly persisted.

The Teranet data is seen as similar to the U.S. S&P/Case-Shiller home price index and lags other resale home data by about six weeks. But it did not show the same renewed strength in the residential housing sector as other recent indicators of the same month.

The Canadian Real Estate Association's (CREA) latest figures for December showed it had snapped a four-month uptrend, and analysts have largely described the residential market as balanced.

TORONTO, VANCOUVER "SELLERS' MARKETS"

The Teranet report said data from CREA showed "generally balanced" conditions in major urban markets. and that Toronto and Vancouver could even be considered sellers' markets.

Four of six tracked metropolitan markets retreated in November, including third-straight monthly declines in Toronto, down 0.5 percent, and Ottawa, down 0.9 percent. The Calgary market posted a drop of 0.7 percent, its fourth in a row, while Halifax prices were down 0.8 percent.

Prices were flat in Montreal for a second straight month.

But Vancouver prices rose, up 0.6 percent for the month.

Looking ahead, analysts said an expected rise in interest rates and recently announced tighter mortgage rules could limit price growth.

The mortgage rules, announced last week, are the latest measures the government has taken to cool the housing sector, while repeatedly saying it sees no signs of a bubble.

National Bank Financial noted that there is still a wide gap between home prices in Canada, which sidestepped the meltdown seen in the United States, and its southern neighbor.

"Despite the last three months' declines, home prices are still 4.8 percent above their pre-recession peak at the national level, a situation that contrasts sharply with the one prevailing in the U.S., where prices are down 30 percent from their peak dating four years ago," said Marc Pinsonneault, senior economist at National Bank Financial.

"Over the next few months, we would expect price increases to resume in Canada as people try to precede the new (mortgage tightening) measure that will take effect in March."

The index tracks home prices over time for repeat sales, so properties with at least two sales are required in the calculations. The report did not provide actual prices.

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