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Home prices gain in 4 of 9 U.S. regions

Freddie Mac index falls 0.4% overall in Q4 '09

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Home prices fell 0.4 percent in the last three months of 2009 compared to the same period a year earlier, with four of nine regions posting gains, according to a home price index published by Freddie Mac.The Conventional Mortgage Home Price Index -- which tracks resales of homes with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae -- was registering a 9.5 percent year-over-year decline at the same point in 2008. Low interest rates and the first-time homebuyer tax credit helped boost home sales to their highest level in 2 1/2 years during the final quarter of 2009 after a seasonal adjustment, said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist.The purchase-only index excludes refinancings, which provide data from appraisals. A separate index that includes both home purchases and refinancings showed home values falling 4.3 percent from a year ago.Both indexes can understate price volatility because they don't include mortgages too large or too risky for Fannie and Freddie.R...