MONEY
09/25/2012 09:26 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

Home Prices Rise For Sixth Straight Month

FILE- In this Wednesday, May 23, 2012, file photo, a new home still under construction is seen for sale in Springfield, Ill.
FILE- In this Wednesday, May 23, 2012, file photo, a new home still under construction is seen for sale in Springfield, Ill. Americans signed more contracts to buy previously occupied homes in May, matching the fastest pace in two years. The increase suggests home sales will rise this summer and the modest housing recovery will continue. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

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NEW YORK, Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. single-family home prices rose for a sixth month in a row in July, though the improvement was not as strong as expected, a closely watched survey showed on Tuesday.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.4 percent in July on a seasonally adjusted basis, shy of economists' forecasts for 0.9 percent, according to a Reuters poll.

On a non-adjusted basis, prices fared better, rising 1.6 percent.

Six years after its collapse, economists believe the housing market has turned a corner. Recent data show home resales and groundbreaking on new properties rose in August, while business sentiment among homebuilders picked up to a more than six-year high this month.

The home price data confirmed "recent good news" about the sector, David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor's, said in a statement.

"All in all, we are more optimistic about housing. Upbeat trends continue," said Blitzer.

U.S. stock index futures held gains immediately after the data, while long-dated Treasury bond prices trimmed gains and the dollar extended losses slightly against the euro.

"This shows a continual recovery in the housing market, which continues to progress," said Mike Gibbs, co-head of the equity advisory group at Raymond James in Memphis, Tennessee.

Compared to a year ago, prices in the 20 cities were up 1.2 percent, beating expectations for 1 percent. It was the second month in a row year-over-year prices have risen.

Four cities had prices that were lower than a year ago, with Atlanta faring the worst, down nearly 10 percent. Hard-hit Phoenix continued its rebound to gain 16.6 percent. (Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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