U.S. home prices rise 12.4 pct.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, showed improvement over June, when it rose 12.1 percent from a year earlier. And all 20 cities posted gains in July both from the previous month and compared to a year ago. (The index does not include Philadelphia.)
Still, the month-over-month price gains shrank in 15 cities in July compared with the previous month, indicating prices may be peaking. Month-over-month gains in the 20-city price index now have slowed for three straight months.
Stan Humphries, chief economist for real estate data provider Zillow, said home prices should continue to rise but at a slower pace. Mortgage rates have increased more than a full percentage point since May, and more homes are being built, which should ease supply constraints that have inflated prices in some markets.
In Las Vegas, home prices rose 27.5 percent from a year earlier, the largest gain. San Francisco's 24.8 percent jump was the second largest and the biggest yearly return for that city since March 2001.
The index covers roughly half of U.S. homes, measuring prices compared with those in January 2000 and creating a three-month moving average. July figures are the latest available.
They are not adjusted for seasonal variations, so the monthly gains reflect more buying activity over the summer.
Since bottoming out in March 2012, home prices have rebounded about 21 percent. They remain about 22 percent below the housing-bubble peak reached in July 2006.
Over the last year, the housing market has been recovering, helped by steady job growth, low mortgage rates, and relatively low prices. Sales of previously occupied homes rose in August to a seasonally adjusted 5.5 million annual pace, according to the National Association of Realtors. That's a healthy level and the highest in more than six years.
But the Realtors' group cautioned that the August pace could represent a temporary peak. The gain reflected closings and largely occurred because many buyers rushed to lock in mortgage rates in June and July, before they increased further.
Buyer traffic dropped off noticeably in August, the Realtors said, likely reflecting higher rates. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.5 percent last week, near a two-year high yet still low by historical standards.
Rates rose in May after Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested the Federal Reserve could slow its bond-purchase program before the end of the year.