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CoreLogic, IAS indices show home prices down again

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Home prices fell in both the CoreLogic (CLGX) and Integrated Asset Services indices in March. Nearly every index in the U.S. showed a drop in home prices in early 2011, including the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index and Clear Capital's measurements, which actually showed a new low since the financial crisis. Downward trends are pushing more borrowers underwater on their mortgage and draining more losses from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. CoreLogic said home prices fell for the eight-consecutive month in March with a 7.5% decline from one year ago. Prices fell 5.8% in February. CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming said the first-time homebuyer tax credit is still haunting the market, pulling "a significant number of sales forward" and artificially inflating prices before it expired in April 2010. "Absent the tax credit, it is understandable that we see prices continue to decline when compared with last year," Fleming said. "As we move further away from that support, we will see a leveling of prices and eventually organic improvements in the market." Meanwhile, IAS data showed prices fell 3.3% in the first quarter from the same period a year earlier. Home prices on its index are now down more than 25% from the peak four years ago. At the end of the first quarter, IAS home prices were down to a level not seen since the middle of 2003. The continued slide in prices pushed harder hit markets such as Las Vegas and Miami down more than 50% from the top of the market in 2007. In the first quarter, Chicago-area home prices dropped 6.9%, as areas in the Northeast and the West fell more than 3% and regions in the South dropped 2%. "We look at the housing market all the way down to the neighborhood," said IAS CEO Paul Sveen. "And there’s just nothing good to see in this report. I have very real concerns the U.S. housing market is on its way to a new low." James Frischling, president at the financial advisory firm NewOak Capital, said there is plenty of private capital to return to the mortgage market, but that money will stay on the sideline until the "gridlock and uncertainty" is solved in U.S. housing. "Battles between borrowers and lenders, banks and the attorneys general and the sorting out of the new regulations all contribute to the lackluster interest in the housing market," Frischling said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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