US home prices climb in February

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US home prices rose in February, picking up the pace from January's gains in a fresh sign of recovery in the housing market, the S&P/Case-Shiller index published Tuesday showed.

The 20-city price index rose 0.3 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis from January. Seasonally adjusted, the increase was 1.2 percent.

In January, the index rose 0.1 percent unadjusted and 1.0 percent adjusted.

All 20 cities posted monthly increases for the second month in a row, the first time that has happened since early 2005.

On a 12-month basis, average home prices for the 20 top urban areas jumped 9.3 percent, the highest annual growth rate since May 2006 when the housing bubble was beginning to collapse.

"Home prices continue to show solid increases across all 20 cities," David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The sharpest year-on-year price gains were in cities hammered by the housing crisis: Phoenix prices soared 23.0 percent, San Francisco (+18.9 percent), Las Vegas (+17.6 percent).

"The housing recovery continues, as prices remain well above their year-ago level. Not only are prices rising, but other housing indicators such as sales and permitting are similarly pushing forward," said Michael Zoller of Moody's Analytics.

"With mortgage originations increasing, the question is no longer whether the housing market recovers, but how fast."