US home prices may still be at levels similar to those seen in fall 2003 but, in an encouraging sign to the market, continue to improve on a year-on-year basis. According to the latest Standard & Poor’s (S&P)/Case-Shiller home price indices, July marks the six month in a row that prices showed improvements, by way of comparison, based on the same month's performance in the bleak 2008 market. The 10-city and 20-city indices declined 12.8% and 13.3%, respectively, in July 2009 compared to July 2008, but that rate of decline has steadily improved throughout 2009. “The rate of annual decline in home price values continues to decelerate and we now seem to be witnessing some sustained monthly increases across many of the markets,” said David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. Only a month-over-month basis, the 10-city and 20-city composites increased 1.7% and 1.6% from June to July. That follows increases of 1.4% in both indices from May to June. Of the 20 metropolitan statistical areas measured, 13 have experienced at least three consecutive months of improvement. “These figures continue to support an indication of stabilization in national real estate values, but we do need to be cautious in coming months to assess whether the housing market will weather the expiration of the federal first-time buyer’s tax credit in November, anticipated higher unemployment rates and a possible increase in foreclosures.” The indices are a monthly indicator of price movement for single-family homes throughout the US by comparing arms-length real estate transactions. Write to Austin Kilgore.