) -- Home prices continued to fall during the third quarter according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index.

The index rose 0.1% in September, but posted a year-over-year decline of 3.9% for the three-month period. Economists expected the index to fall 3% year-over-year according to Thomson Reuters after declining 5.8% in the second quarter..

"Nationally, home prices are back to their first quarter of 2003 levels," said the report.

In September, 14 of the 20 cities showed home prices improving. However, only Detroit and Washington DC reported positive annual growth rates for the month.

"Over the last year, home prices in most cities drifted lower," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices. "The plunging collapse of prices seen in 2007-2009 seems to be behind us. Any chance for a sustained recovery will probably need a stronger economy."

The home price index was the second read on housing this week.

Sales of new homes rose 1.3% in October according to a Census Bureau report released Monday.

Single-family home sales rose to an adjusted annual rate of 307,000 from a revised 303,000 in September.

Economists surveyed by Reuters expected sales to have increased to 315,000 annualized units from the originally reported 313,000 units in September.

The average sales price for October was $242,300, and there is an estimated 6.3 month housing supply at current sales rates.

-- Written by Ross Tucker in New York.

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