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Home Prices Up; Homebuilders Down

(Updated for change in stock prices)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index reported more encouraging news about the home market on Tuesday, but few of the nation's homebuilders saw the market reward them for the encouraging home-price news.

The national home-price index showed improved performance in the third quarter 2009, and for the second consecutive quarter. The homebuilders, on the other hand, couldn't catch a break, with only three stocks in the sector showing stock price increases on Tuesday.

One of the reasons for the continued problems for stocks in the homebuilding sector may be the relative glacial pace of improvements. The residential home market is recovering, albeit at a very gradual pace and with some big markets still lagging, the indices returns through September showed.

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Movement in homebuilder stocks has been up and down for the past few weeks , as strong earnings from Toll Brothers (TOL) drove up the market mid-month, followed last week by weak earnings from D.R. Horton (DHI - Get Report), sending the sector back down for more punishment.

The U.S. National Home Price Index recorded an 8.9% decline in the third quarter, a marked improvement over the drop of 14.9% in the second quarter and 19% drop in the first quarter 2009.

The 10-City and 20-City composite indexes recorded annual declines of 8.5% and 9.4% respectively, continuing a trend of general annual return improvement through each month of 2009 -- it was the fifth consecutive monthly increase for both indices in September.

Even better, these indices emerged from double digit declines for the first time in 21 months.

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