Home prices in major metropolitan areas continued to fall in February; however, for the first time in 16 months, the annual decline did not set a new record, possibly suggesting early signs of market stabilization. The S&P/Case-Shiller 10-City and 20-City Home Price Indices released Tuesday recorded nationwide, annual declines of 18.8% and 18.6%, respectively. This is a slight improvement from the returns reported for January, which fell by 19.4% and 19.0%. “While the declines in residential real estate continued into February, we witnessed some deceleration in the rate of decline in some of the markets,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. “All 20 metro areas recorded a monthly decline in February, but 16 of the 20 metro areas saw an improvement in their monthly returns compared to January." Still, the indices show an ongoing, broad-based decline in the prices of existing single family homes across the United States, with 10 of the 20 metro areas studied showing record rates of annual decline, and 15 posting declines in excess of 10%. In terms of annual declines, the three worst performing cities as of February are once again, located in the Sunbelt, each reporting negative returns in excess of 30%. Phoenix was down 35.2%, Las Vegas declined 31.7% and San Francisco fell 31.0%. Dallas, Denver and Boston faired the best, down a significantly lesser 4.5%, 5.7% and 7.2%, respectively. Dallas also holds the distinction of being the best performer for the month, returning -0.3%, according to the report. As of February 2009, average home prices across the United States are at levels similar to those seen in third-quarter 2003. And despite the deceleration in home price declines seen in February, from the peak in mid 2006, home prices are still down over 30%. Standard & Poor's Blitzer says, "we will certainly need a few more months of data before we can determine if home prices are finally turning around." Write to Kelly Curran at kelly.curran@housingwire.com.