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Slim summer home price gains expected to reverse

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JPMorgan Chase (JPM) analysts stuck to their estimate of further declines in home prices ahead and warned against buying too much into the recent upticks in the busier summer months. "As various home price indices in April reported their first monthly gain in eight to 10 months, the market cheered," the analysts said in a research note released Monday. "However, the recent stabilization in prices is not driven by a fundamental improvement in the supply-demand balance." The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index climbed for the first time in eight months this past April, and the CoreLogic (CLGX) home price index increased 0.8% in May. JPMorgan analysts said these upticks represent the usual seasonal increase in homebuying demand, and with distressed sales remaining stable, the market share of these previously foreclosed or delinquent properties drops in the summer and climbs in the winter. Thus, home prices were allowed to increase as the months grew warmer, analysts said. "Both warmer weather and the drop in distressed sales percentage have contributed to recent home price improvements," analysts said. "However, given the disappointing pace in housing demand recovery, both factors may turn against us in the coming winter and push home prices lower again." Existing home sales dropped 3.8% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.8 million in May, according to the National Association of Realtors. Meanwhile, inventory dipped just 1% to 3.72 million homes, representing a 9.3-month supply. A healthy housing market historically showed a six month supply. This supply-demand imbalance affirmed JPMorgan analysts' estimate of a further 4% drop in home prices from the first quarter of 2011 to a new bottom next year. Clear Capital analysts also see a further slip in home prices. "The delicate supply-demand balance will continue to be challenging for the remainder of this year and into 2012," analysts said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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