Thirty of the nation’s 50 biggest metro areas have a greater than even chance of seeing lower house prices by the end of March 2011, according to an analysis by mortgage insurer PMI Group Inc.

PMI’s market risk index — which is based on price-appreciation trends, affordability, unemployment, interest rates and local economic conditions — projects that 46.7 percent of 381 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are at risk of price declines in the next two years.

MSAs in California, Nevada, Florida and Arizona continue to rank as the highest-risk areas across the nation — the 36 riskiest MSAs are all located in those four states, PMI said.

But increased risk is also appearing in MSAs with fast-rising foreclosure and unemployment rates, the report said.

Unemployment rates averaged 8.8 percent during first-quarter 2009, up from 6.5 percent during fourth-quarter 2008. The average unemployment rate in the high-risk MSAs was 10.6 percent, compared with 6.9 percent in the low-risk MSAs.

Of the top 50 MSAs, Detroit has the highest unemployment rate (14.5 percent), with a projected 98.8 percent chance of price declines in two years, while San Antonio had the lowest unemployment rate (6.1 percent), and a 2.8 percent chance of price declines in two years, PMI said.


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