TORONTO, April 17 (Reuters) - Canadian home prices rose in March from February, ending a six-month string of declines, as spring home buyers breathed some life back into Canada's cooling housing market, the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index showed on Wednesday.
The index, which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes, showed overall prices rose 0.4 percent in March from a month earlier.
The index was up 2.6 percent from a year earlier, the smallest 12-month gain since November 2009. The annual rate has been slowing for more than a year.
The report suggested Canada's housing market regained some strength in March after a long slow winter of decline following the government's move to tighten mortgage lending rules in July 2012.
Residential real estate activity typically picks up in the spring, and economists have been waiting to see if demand will return after a dramatic slowdown since the middle of 2012.
The report echoed one released on Monday by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) that showed sales of existing homes bounced up 2.4 percent in March from February, though year-over-year sales are sharply lower.
The Teranet data showed prices rose in March from February in nine of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed, led by a 1.3 percent gain in Calgary and a 1.0 percent rise in Edmonton. Prices were also up 0.8 percent in Vancouver, 0.7 percent in Montreal, 0.4 percent in Quebec City, 0.3 percent in Halifax and Winnipeg, 0.2 percent in Toronto and 0.1 percent in Ottawa.
They were down 3.2 percent in Victoria -- the largest monthly decline in almost 23 years over which the Teranet-National bank index has been calculated for that city -- and 0.9 percent down in Hamilton.
Year-on-year prices dropped in two cities -- Victoria, where they were down 3.5 percent from March 2012, and Vancouver, where prices fell 1.5 percent. British Columbia had the hottest housing market going into the downturn.
Compared with March 2012, prices were 5.9 percent higher in Quebec City, 5.7 percent higher in Calgary, 4.9 percent higher in Hamilton, 4.7 percent higher in Toronto, 4.5 percent higher in Winnipeg and Halifax, 3.7 percent higher in Edmonton, 2.3 percent higher in Ottawa, and 1.5 percent higher in Montreal.