US house prices fall at slower pace, says Case Shiller

Homes for sale in the Mojave Desert, California
Image caption House prices fell in 16 of the 20 cities tracked by the closely-watched housing market index

US house prices continued to fall in January, but at a slower pace than in the previous month, a closely-watched survey has suggested.

The Case Shiller housing index, which is compiled by rating agency Standard & Poor's, was down 3.8% from a year ago.

Sixteen of the 19 cities covered by the survey showed price falls.

Separately, figures suggested consumer confidence in the US dipped in March after rising sharply in the previous month.

'More confidence'

"Despite some positive economic signs, home prices continued to drop," said David Blitzer, S&P's index committee head.

However, despite the fact house prices only rose in three cities - Denver, Detroit and Phoenix - analysts focused on the fact that prices were stabilising.

"[The latest data] gives you a little more confidence that the housing market is bottoming, because perhaps the most troubling aspect of the recent housing data has been the sagging of the Case-Shiller price index, effectively since July 2011," said Carey Leavy at Decision Economics.

"The fact that the so-called double dip in home prices is ending gives you a little more confidence that the market could improve over the next year and half."

The US consumer confidence index compiled by The Conference Board fell to 70.2 in March from 71.6 in February, in line with market expectations.

"Consumer confidence pulled back slightly in March, after rising sharply in February. The moderate decline was due solely to a less favourable short-term outlook," said Lynn Franco of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

Consumer confidence is an important indicator of the health of the US economy because consumer spending accounts for about 70% of overall economic activity in the country.

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