November 29, 2011 / 2:07 PM / 8 years ago

Home prices decline in September: S&P

A real estate for sale sign is displayed outside a home in Chandler Heights, Arizona June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Home prices declined in September, highlighting the fragility of a market that is struggling to get back on its feet, a closely watched survey showed on Tuesday.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas fell 0.6 percent from August on a seasonally adjusted basis, falling short of economists’ forecasts for no change.

Prices in August were also revised to show a decline of 0.3 percent after originally being reported as unchanged.

The index has leveled off in recent months and analysts are hoping the market is at least stabilizing. Even so, prices are expected to stay weak for some time, given the excess amount of homes and few buyers.

“Ultimately we continue to expect home prices to remain under pressure. This report is generally consistent with that idea. The supply-demand imbalance that exists in the housing market will continue,” said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

For the third quarter, prices were down 1.2 percent from the previous quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis and were down 3.9 percent from the third quarter a year ago.

That was weaker than the second quarter, which had seen a gain of 0.2 percent compared to the first three months of the year.

Compared to a year ago, price declines in the 20 cities continued to improve in September and were down 3.6 percent after a year over year decline of 3.8 percent the month before.

Financial markets saw little reaction to the data as investors focused on a meeting of European finance ministers amid pressure to contain the euro zone debt crisis.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr, additional reporting by Emily Flitter, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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