U.S. house prices inched upward 1.4% from the third quarter to the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

From the fourth quarter of 2011 to the same quarter in 2012, seasonally adjusted home prices increased 5.5%.

“The fourth quarter was another strong one for house prices, as it was the third consecutive quarter where U.S. price growth exceeded 1%,” said FHFA Principal Economist Andrew Leventis. 

Leventis added, "While a significant number of homes remained in the foreclosure pipeline, the actual number of homes available for sale was very low and fell over the course of the quarter.”

The FHFA’s house price index, which is calculated using home sales price information released by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, rose 1.6% over the last quarter. The HPI also increased 5.5% over the latest four quarters.

The FHFA’s HPI revealed that of the nine census divisions, the strongest increase in home prices was seen in the Pacific, which posted a 4.2% price increase in the latest quarter. Conversely, the East North Central division remained unchanged from the prior quarter.

Of the 25 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., the Phoenix metropolitan statistical area reported the greatest price increase, with a 6.8% jump between the third and fourth quarters. The Edison-New Brunswick, NJ, metro saw a 0.8% drop in prices over that same period.

The Standard & Poor/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released Tuesday supported the claim of healthy growth, revealing that home prices rose 7.3% in 2012.

“The FHFA report combined this morning with a favorable Case-Shiller report, point to further progress in restoring home prices toward pre-recession levels. Recent numbers on supply shortages of homes on the market have indicated upward pressure on prices,” said analysts at Econoday.