U.S. home prices fall for eighth straight month

    NEW YORK — U.S. home prices fell nationwide in August for the eighth consecutive month, offering little hope of a turnaround anytime soon, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday.

    Things could get worse, said Yale economist Robert Shiller, who helped create the index.

    "There is really no positive news in today's report," said Shiller, chief economist for MacroMarkets LLC, which collaborates with S&P on the indicator. "At both the national and metro area levels, the fall in home prices is showing no real signs of a slowdown or turnaround."

    Home prices as measured by the index have fallen by more every month since the beginning of the year. August is the 21st month of decelerating returns.

    An index of 10 U.S. metropolitan areas fell 5 percent in August from a year ago. That was the biggest drop since June 1991. The lowest ever was a decline of 6.3 percent in April 1991.

    A broader index of 20 metropolitan areas fell 4.4 percent in August over last year, with 15 of 20 of them reporting that prices fell.

    Housing prices have been a key worry for consumers, and the effect of the slowdown alongside the summer's steep decline in credit availability, has many worried that the economy will go into recession.

    Notably, eight of the 20 metropolitan areas in the Case-Shiller index showed their lowest annual returns ever recorded in August. The report showed drops in Cleveland of 4.1 percent; Las Vegas, 7.6 percent; Miami, 7.8 percent; Minneapolis, 4 percent; Phoenix, 8 percent; San Diego, 8.3 percent; Tampa, Fla., 10.1 percent; and Washington, D.C., 7.2 percent.

    Tampa surpassed Detroit as the worst performing city. Detroit had a 9.3 percent drop over last year.

    The index is designed to track prices of typical single-family homes.

    The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes fell 8 percent in September, the largest decline since 1999.

    The median price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — fell to $211,700 in September, down 4.2 percent from a year ago.

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