Housing Reports Offer Mixed Price Views, Imply Sales Are Down

New York–U.S. home prices dropped again in the first quarter due to continued subprime loan issues, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price indexes–but the Commerce Department said that new home sales rose.The indexes–published monthly by New York-based Standard & Poor’s–showed that home prices declined 14 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago. The fall was the largest in the 20-year history of the indexes, The Wall Street Journal said Tuesday.Home prices plummeted 6.7 percent from the fourth quarter. In 10 major metropolitan areas, prices declined 15 percent in March from a year ago.Prices fell 14 percent compared to 2007 in 20 major metropolitan areas.However, the Commerce Department said Tuesday that the U.S. median new home price grew by 1.5 percent in April to $246,100; in April 2007, the median price was $242,500.In addition, the Commerce Department said that single-family home sales grew by 3.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 526,000.New home sales showed a 42 percent decline from April 2007. In March, new home sales declined 11 percent to an annual rate of 509,000; the government had originally reported sales had fallen by 8.5 percent.Yet the housing supply also dropped–a small but positive sign for the market. Inventory declined from 467,000 homes in March to roughly 456,000 at the end of April, the Journal said.