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Mortgage

FHFA: Home prices rose disappointing 0.3% in March

Conflicts with S&P Case-Shiller finding

The Federal Housing Finance Agency house price index rose a lower-than-expected 0.3% in March, not confirming a much stronger 1.0% gain for the S&P Case-Shiller index also released Tuesday.

The most optimistic reading for March came from Black Knight Financial Services (BKFS), a Fidelity National Financial (FNF) company.

Black Knight’s index says that home prices were up 1.2% in the month of March and up 4.8% on a year-over-year basis. Those totals represent the largest monthly gain in national home prices since June 2013.

The gain for FHFA is below low-end analyst expectations though the year-on-year came in at a respectable plus 5.2%, down only one notch from February's revised 5.3%. 

The breakdown for FHFA is positive, showing gains in 7 of 9 regions led by the East North Central, East South Central and the Middle Atlantic.

A second straight decline was posted in the West South Central with New England also in the minus column.

Year-on-year, the West North Central and Middle Atlantic are the weakest at plus 3.2% and plus 3.5%, with the Mountain region the strongest at plus 7.2% followed by the Pacific at plus 6.8%.

Meanwhile, S&P Case Shiller's adjusted 20-city house price index rose a very solid and slightly higher-than-expected 1.0% in March with gains across all cities and well balanced gains across all regions.

But year-on-year readings in both reports show an improving trend, at a moderate 5% for Case-Shiller and plus 5.2% for FHFA. 

“As we move deeper into the traditional home buying season, the low level of homes for sale in many markets is continuing to push prices higher,” said Quicken Loans Vice President Bill Banfield. “Once more owners realize the opportunity to sell their home, price gains will slow and prices may even dip in response to the greater choice for buyers.” 

Turning to Case-Shiller, the strongest gain in March came from Detroit where prices rose 2.6% following 1.2% and 1.0% gains in the two prior months. Gains in this hard-hit city speak to general strength for house prices.

Prices have also been rising in Minneapolis, up 1.8% following February's 1.7% gain. West Coast cities as usual are at the top of the price list with Florida also showing strength.

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