Foreclosure activity in the U.S. increased once again in February, rising nearly 30% from a year ago, despite a moratorium on foreclosures by many financial firms, according to a research group.

RealtyTrac, an Internet marketplace for foreclosure properties, said that foreclosures rose 6% last month to 290,631 U.S. properties, marking the third-highest monthly total in the report's history.

Nevada, Arizona and California sported the top state foreclosure rates. Nevada saw a 9% increase from the previous month and a 156% increase from a year ago, with one in every 70 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing last month. Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Oregon and Ohio rounded out the top 10.

Meanwhile, California led the nation with the highest foreclosure totals at 80,775 in February, the most of any state, followed by Florida and Arizona. Nevada, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Georgia and Virginia also reported foreclosure totals that were among the nation's 10 highest.

The magnitude of the increase came as a bit of a surprise as several lenders, including Citigroup ( C), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Bank of America ( BAC), said last month that they would temporarily halt new foreclosures on mortgages they hold until the Obama administration finalized a plan.

"The increase in foreclosure activity from January to February is somewhat surprising, given that many of the foreclosure prevention efforts and moratoria in place in January were extended through most of February as well," said James Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac.

RealtyTrac also said that Sun Belt cities posted the top metro foreclosure rates. One in every 60 Las Vegas housing units received a foreclosure filing in February, giving the city the nation's highest foreclosure rate among metro areas with a population of at least 200,000. Vegas' foreclosure rate was more than seven times higher than the national average, the firm said.

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., metro area had the second highest foreclosure rate in February, with one in every 65 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing. Six California metro areas registered foreclosure rates among the top 10 -- Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Riverside-San Bernardino, Bakersfield and Vallejo-Fairfield.

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