Home prices dropped in February in most major U.S. cities for a sixth straight month, a sign that modest sales gains haven’t been enough to boost prices.
The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home-price index shows that prices dropped in February from January in 16 of the 20 cities it tracks.
The steepest declines were in Atlanta, Chicago and Cleveland. Prices rose in Phoenix, San Diego and Miami. They were unchanged in Dallas.
The declines partly reflect typical offseason sales. The month-to-month prices aren’t adjusted for seasonal factors.
Still, prices fell in 15 of the 20 cities in February compared with the same month in 2011. That indicates that the housing market remains far from healthy despite the best winter for sales in five years.
The steady price declines have brought the nationwide index to its late 2002 level. Home prices have fallen 35 percent since the housing bust.
Stan Humphries, chief economist for housing website Zillow.com, attributed the declines in part to heavy sales of foreclosed homes, which are usually sold at super-low prices. Foreclosures made up about one-fifth of February’s sales.
“We think home sales will continue to trend upward, which ultimately will result in a slower rate of home value depreciation,” Humphries said. “But any housing recovery will be dependent on job growth.”