U.S. home prices fell for the fifth month in a row in December, but the rate of decline is decelerating, according to the latest Home Price Index from mortgage data aggregator CoreLogic.

The CoreLogic HPI showed national home prices falling 5.46 percent from a year ago in December. Looking at the year as a whole, the index showed essentially no change from 2009 — a sign that the largest declines are over, CoreLogic said.

"Despite the continued monthly decline in home prices and year-over-year depreciation, we’re encouraged that on an annual basis we’re unchanged relative to a year ago," said CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming in a statement. "Excess supply continues to drive prices downward, but the silver lining is that the rate of decline is decelerating."

The index showed national home prices down 31.6 percent from their April 2006 peak, or 22.2 percent if distressed transactions are excluded.

The five states with the greatest year-over-year depreciation were Idaho (-14.61 percent), Alabama (-13.14 percent), Arizona (-10.94 percent), Oregon (-9.61 percent) and Missouri (-8.82 percent).

The five states with the highest appreciation were: North Dakota (5.53 percent), Hawaii (3.79 percent), West Virginia (3.74 percent), New York (1.66 percent) and Vermont (0.65 percent).

Change in CoreLogicHPI, 10 largest markets

Market

Last 12 months

Excluding distressed

Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale

-9.74

-5.84

Chicago-Joliet-Naperville

-6.59

-4.21

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta

-6.43

-2.69

Philadelphia

-4.45

-2.83

L.A.-Long Beach-Glendale

-3.11

-2.17

Dallas-Plano-Irving

-0.77

+1.8

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario

+0.19

-0.1

New York-White Plains-Wayne

+0.35

+2.45

Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria

+1.31

+3.03

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown

+1.8

+0.51

National

-5.46

-2.31

Source: CoreLogic

Another report, from Lender Processing Services, shows the number of delinquent mortgages continued to shrink in December, even as the number of homes in foreclosure was on the rise.

Foreclosure inventory was up nearly 10 percent during 2010, as foreclosure starts remain elevated but foreclosure sales were constrained, LPS said.

The report estimated 6.87 million mortgages were delinquent in December, down nearly 14 percent from a year ago, while another 2.19 million were in some state of foreclosure, up 6 percent from last year.

The number of homeowners behind by only one payment was down nearly 8 percent from a year ago, to 1.8 million, and 60-day delinquencies shrank by nearly 19 percent, to 758,705. That suggests the number of homes entering the foreclosure pipeline will continue to shrink.

It’s taking longer for homes that enter the foreclosure pipeline to come out the other end, however, as reflected in the growing number of homes in foreclosure or with mortgages that are 90 days or more delinquent.

Lender process reviews and moratoriums continue to limit the flow of foreclosed properties into real estate owned, or REO, inventories, LPS said.

LPS estimates that 90-day delinquencies grew by nearly 6 percent from a year ago, to 2.12 million, and that on average those mortgages had been delinquent for 334 days, compared with 249 days a year ago.

Homes in foreclosure had been delinquent for 507 days on average, up from 406 days a year ago.

A rising percentage of foreclosures — more than 30 percent — are on homes that have been in foreclosure previously, LPS said.

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