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Wednesday Feb 25, 2009

US home prices plunge a record 18.5 percent : survey

WASHINGTON, Feb 24, 2009 (AFP) - Home prices in top US cities fell a record 18.5 percent in December amid an unending home mortgage crisis at the epicenter of financial turmoil, fresh data showed Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller survey showed a year-over-year decline of 18.5 percent in the 20 largest US metropolitan areas.

After a decline of 18.2 percent in November, analysts had expect a decline of 18.3 percent for the last month of 2008.

In the top 10 cities, prices dipped 19.2 percent.

"There are very few, if any, pockets of turnaround that one can see in the data," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor's. "The broad downturn in the residential real estate market continues."

Most of the United States appeared to remain on a downward path, with all of the 20 metro areas reporting annual declines and eight now with negative rates exceeding 20 percent, the survey showed. 

Thirteen of 13 cities have been reporting consecutive record declines since December 2007. 

President Barack Obama unveiled a new 75-billion-dollar mortgage plan this month which is aimed at helping up to nine million homeowners at risk of foreclosure keep their homes.

It contains incentives to lenders to lower payments by at-risk homeowners to 31 percent of their income.

The government is also putting up an additional 200 billion dollars each to bolster efforts by federal lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer affordable mortgages and bring stability to the housing market.

bur-pp/rl - AFP

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