The nation's monthly pile of completed foreclosures stood tall in February, barely moving to 65,000 from 66,000 a year earlier and from 71,000 in January.

Data released by CoreLogic (CLGX) shows the 50 states completed 862,000 foreclosures in the 12 months ending in February. Since the beginning of the financial crisis in September 2008, about 3.4 million properties have been through foreclosure.

With the spring buying season just starting, the housing market's foreclosure inventory could decline as the pace of distressed-asset sales rises along with the rest of the housing market. About 1.4 million homes, or 3.4% of all homes with a mortgage, were in the foreclosure inventory as of February versus 1.5 million a year earlier and 1.4 million in January.

Homes in some state of the foreclosure process represented 24% of all U.S. home sales in the fourth quarter, up from 20% of all sales in the third quarter and down 26% from a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac.

"The pace of completed foreclosures is down slightly compared to January, running at an annualized pace of 670,000, but compares favorably to the pace of completed foreclosures in February a year ago,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Even though the pace of completed foreclosures has slowed, the overall foreclosure inventory is decreasing because REO sales were up in February.”

As expected, the states that completed the most foreclosures during the 12 months ending in February were California (154,000), Florida (87,000), Michigan (64,000), Arizona (63,000) and Texas (58,000). These five states account for 49.4% of all completed foreclosures nationally.

Georgia and Nevada, two more states with severely ailing housing markets, completed 58,000 and 37,000 foreclosures, respectively, in that period. Texas, a state inhabiting about 26 million people, only had two more completed foreclosures than Georgia, a state inhabiting about 10 million. And Nevada foreclosures might soon reboot as mortgage servicers are slowly easing their way into the state’s foreclosure process.

The percentage of homeowners nationally who were more than 90 days late on their mortgage payments, including homes in foreclosure and REO, slipped to 7.3% in February from 7.8% a year earlier, but crept up from 7.2% in January.

“In February, more than 60 major markets saw a decrease in their foreclosure rates compared to a year ago,” CoreLogic Chief Executive Anand Nallathambi said. “This combined with faster REO-clearing rates, better employment news, and continued historically low interest rates are all positive signs of improvement in the housing economy.”

Nallathambi's comments parallel those made Wednesday by Freddie Mac's cheif economist, who said “the housing market is showing some signs of shaking off the depression-like conditions that have plagued it for much of the past few years."

Click on the image below for each state's 90-plus day delinquency rate: