Home prices continued to see a spring bounce in May, but fell slightly compared to the same month a year ago, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released today.

After seven straight months of declines, home prices rose on a monthly basis in April and continued to rise in May with all 20 major markets tracked by the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index seeing increases between April and May. Overall, the index rose 2.2 percent month to month in May, but fell 0.7 percent from May 2011.

Eight of the 20 markets experienced year-over-year price declines, though 17 of the 20 saw their rates of return improve, making these annual changes "the best we’ve seen in at least 18 months," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, in a statement.

Nonetheless, these figures are not seasonally adjusted, and Blitzer cautioned that despite the improvements, "we need to remember that spring and early summer are seasonally strong buying months so this trend must continue throughout the summer and into the fall."

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index still rose month to month in May, but at a slower rate, 0.9 percent.

Both sets of numbers have their problems, according to Bill McBride of the blog Calculated Risk, but "however we look at the numbers, it appears house prices increased in May from April, and that the year-over-year change will probably turn positive in the June or July report."

Blitzer noted that data for existing-home sales, new-home sales, housing starts and mortgage default rates were all better than their year-ago levels in June.

"The housing market seems to be stabilizing, but we are definitely in a wait-and-see mode for the next few months."

On average, home prices in the 20 markets in May had fallen to their spring 2003 levels, down about 33 percent from their peak in June and July 2006.

Compared to a year ago, Atlanta saw the biggest drop in home prices (-14.5 percent), followed by Las Vegas (-3.2 percent) and Chicago (-3 percent). Phoenix saw the biggest annual gain (11.5 percent), followed by Minneapolis (4.7 percent) and Dallas (3.8 percent).

While Chicago and Atlanta saw some of the biggest yearly drops, monthly figures were more robust. Both saw the biggest price increases, 4.5 percent and 4 percent, respectively among the 20 markets.

Metro area May 2012 index level Change from April Change from a year ago
Atlanta 87.85 4.0% -14.5%
Boston 150.67 2.4% -0.1%
Charlotte 112.84 1.0% 0.9%
Chicago 108.62 4.5% -3.0%
Cleveland 99.17 2.4% -0.1%
Dallas 118.6 1.9% 3.8%
Denver 128.48 2.1% 3.7%
Detroit 66.1 0.4% 0.6%
Las Vegas 92.55 1.9% -3.2%
Los Angeles 165.76 2.2% -2.0%
Miami 143.35 1.4% 3.4%
Minneapolis 113.47 3.1% 4.7%
New York 160.4 1.4% -2.8%
Phoenix 111.92 2.7% 11.5%
Portland 135.09 2.6% 0.4%
San Diego 153.06 0.9% -1.1%
San Francisco 135.28 3.9% 0.6%
Seattle 137.37 2.6% 0.6%
Tampa 130.26 2.0% 2.5%
Washington 185.55 2.5% 2.8%
Composite-10 151.79 2.2% -1.0%
Composite-20 138.96 2.2% -0.7%

Note: Indices have a base value of 100 in January 2000. An index level of 150 translates to a 50 percent appreciation rate since January 2000 for a typical home located within the subject market.

Sources: S&P Dow Jones Indices and Fiserv.

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