Home prices fell from January to February in 16 out of 20 markets tracked by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, with nine markets posting new lows for the downturn.

Miami (0.6 percent), Phoenix (1.2 percent) and San Diego (0.2 percent) were the only metros to record positive monthly returns, while Dallas was flat.

Taken as a whole, the 20-city composite index showed prices down 3.5 percent from a year ago — a slightly less drastic decline than the 3.9 percent annual deprectiation seen in January, but a new low for the downturn.

The 20-city composite puts average U.S. home prices back to where they were in late 2002, down 35 percent from their peak in the summer of 2006.

Five markets — Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and Phoenix — registered positive annual returns, although prices in Phoenix were still down 54.2 percent from their peak.

The nine markets hitting new lows were Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa.

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices February 2012

Metro area

February 2012 index level (January 2000=100)

Change January to February

Change from year ago

Atlanta

83.29

-2.5%

-17.3%

Boston

146.23

-1.1%

-2.4%

Charlotte

108.13

-0.4%

-1.8%

Chicago

105.39

-2.5%

-6.9%

Cleveland

94.14

-1.7%

-4.4%

Dallas

112.67

0.0%

-1.0%

Denver

121.81

-0.9%

0.5%

Detroit

68.60

-1.3%

1.5%

Las Vegas

89.89

-0.4%

-8.5%

Los Angeles

159.49

-0.8%

-5.2%

Miami

139.49

0.6%

0.8%

Minneapolis

110.16

-1.0%

0.4%

New York

159.58

-0.8%

-3.0%

Phoenix

104.12

1.2%

3.3%

Portland

129.60

-0.3%

-3.0%

San Diego

149.07

0.2%

-3.9%

San Francisco

124.64

-0.7%

-4.1%

Seattle

128.99

-0.8%

-2.9%

Tampa

123.91

-0.2%

-2.9%

Washington

175.74

-0.8%

-2.3%

Composite-10

146.90

-0.8%

-3.6%

Composite-20

134.20

-0.8%

-3.5%

Source: S&P Indices & Fiserv

Phoenix and Atlanta stand out in terms of their contrasting relative strength and weakness in the early 2012 housing market, said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices.

"At one end of the spectrum, we have Atlanta posting a double-digit, and lowest on record, annual rate at -17.3 percent," Blitzer said in a statement. "Atlanta has now recorded five consecutive months of double-digit negative annual rates and seven consecutive monthly declines. On the other hand, Phoenix has posted two consecutive months of positive annual rates, with its latest being +3.3 percent, and five consecutive positive monthly returns."

Average home prices in Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and Las Vegas continue to register below January 2000 levels.

Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said foreclosure resales continue to pull down home prices.

"Looking forward, we think homes sales will continue to trend upward, which ultimately will result in a slower rate of home-value depreciation," Humphries said. "But any housing recovery will be dependent on job growth. Continued progress in this area is essential to keeping the housing recovery, such as it is, on track."

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