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US home prices flat in July

[WASHINGTON] US home prices growth remained essentially unchanged in July as the strong housing market continued to give steady support to the US economy, according to private data released Tuesday.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city price index, covering major US metropolitan areas, rose 5.0 per cent year-over-year in July, the same as in June. On a monthly basis, prices slipped 0.2 per cent from July.

"Prices of existing homes and housing overall are seeing strong growth and contributing to recent solid growth for the economy," said David Blitzer, head of the S&P Dow Jones Indices index committee.

The year-over-year price gains were concentrated in the West, with San Francisco and Denver leading the pack with double-digit increases of 10.4 per cent and 10.3 per cent, respectively.

The overall national price index rose slightly to a year-over-year gain of 4.5 per cent. Blitzer noted that the index has been rising at an annual rate of at least four percent since September 2012, well above the US inflation rate.

The S&P/Case-Shiller data lag other housing indicators, which have shown healthy sales of new and existing housing as the jobs market improves and mortgage rates remain near historically low levels.

"The recent trend in Case-Shiller prices has been flat-to-down, but we very much doubt this accurately reflects what's really happening in the existing homes market, where sales have jumped sharply this year," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

The housing market has been one of the bright spots in the US economy as the Federal Reserve considers lifting zero-level interest rates this year.

"An interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve, now expected in December by many analysts, is not likely to derail the strong housing performance," Mr Blitzer said.