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(Home prices article updated at 10:07 a.m.)



) -- Home prices across the U.S. fell 4.2% during the first quarter, bringing prices back to mid-2002 levels.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index of national home prices fell in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, slowing 3.6% after falling 3.3% in February. The 10-city composite showed a 2.9% decline in March.

"This month's report is marked by the confirmation of a double-dip in home prices across much of the nation," David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices said.

Blitzer said that home prices rebounded in 2009 and 2010 largely due to the first-time home buyers tax credit. Beyond that tax credit, he said home prices have not recovered or stabilized since the financial crisis began.

On Friday, the National Association of Realtors reported that

pending home sales plunged 11.6% in April.

Pending home sales are seen as an indicator of future home sales because they reflect contracts, not closings, and have a lag time of one to two months.

The NAR reported on May 19 that existing-home sales slipped in April 0.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million units.

"Given the great affordability conditions, job creation and pent-up demand, home sales should be stronger," Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist said at the time of the report. "Unnecessarily tight credit is continuing to restrain the market, along with a steady level of low appraisals that result in contract cancellations."

Also last week, the

Commerce Department reported that sales of newly built homes rose 7.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 323,000, a bigger-than-expected spike.

April's new-home sales figure remained 23.1% below year-earlier levels.


Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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