A monthly home-price index of 20 major cities nationwide rose 4.6 percent year-over-year in May, according to the latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller National Home Price Indices report released today.

The indices, which are based on repeat sales of single-family homes over time, have a base value of 100, with levels above 100 representing the percentage of home-value appreciation since January 2000.

The 20-City Composite Home Price Index was 146.43 in May, up 1.3 percent from the previous month. Of the 20 major cities the index tracks, 19 showed positive gains compared to the previous month and 13 improved over the May 2009 values. A similar 10-city composite index rose 5.4 percent.

"While May’s report on its own looks somewhat positive, a broader look at home price levels over the past year still do not indicate that the housing market is in any form of sustained recovery," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s, in a statement.

"Since reaching its recent trough in April 2009, the housing market has really only stabilized at this lower level. The two composites have improved between 5 and 6 percent since then, but this is no better than the improvement they had registered as of October 2009. The last seven months have basically been flat."

Average home prices across the country are now at the levels they were in the fall of 2003, the report said. From a peak in June-July 2006 through May, the 20-city composite index fell 29.1 percent.

Of the seven cities that saw negative activity in home prices, Las Vegas fell the most: 6.5 percent, posting a new index low.

"The peak-to-trough figure is -56.4 percent, with that market generally returning any gains it had posted since 2000," the report said. "Detroit is the only market that is worse off. Its index is at levels last seen in late 1994, indicating that any appreciation in value during the past 15 years is now gone."

Detroit’s index fell 2.5 percent year-over-year in May. The other tracked cities to see their indices fall were Charlotte, N.C. (-2.8 percent); Chicago (-1.5 percent); Tampa (-1.5 percent), Fla.; Seattle (-1.4 percent); and New York (-0.4 percent).

Two California cities, San Francisco and San Diego, posted the highest year-over-year index gains: 18.3 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively. The latter experienced its 13th month of consecutive increases, the report said.

"With the month-over-month data, while 19 of the 20 MSAs (metro areas) and the two composites were positive, we are in a strong seasonal period for home prices, so that was largely expected," Blitzer said.

"In addition, there may still be some residual impact from the homebuyer tax credits. We need to watch where the housing markets will go after these temporary stimuli go away. June’s existing- and new-home sales and housing starts data do not show much real improvement in those statistics either.

"It still looks possible that the housing market might bounce along the bottom for the foreseeable future, before showing any real improvement that will filter through to the rest of the economy," Blitzer stated.

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