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Home Prices Rise in 15 Major Cities

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller housing price index for August is out. While I worry about this statistic because it doesn't include lots of apartments, it's still widely used to track real estate prices -- and this month, the news is good.

According to an article this morning from the Associated Press' J.W. Elphinstone, the index is up 1 percent from the prior month of July.

The rate of decline in the index had been slowing for some time, leading many analysts to believe that the housing market had been finding a bottom. What's amazing about this month's number is how nationally widespread the news seems to be.

Check out these great charts by The Tim on -- they show a strong California recovery with San Francisco prices up 2.5 percent, and Los Angeles and San Diego each up more than 1.0 percent, over the prior month.

Other cities posting more than 1.0 percent gains include Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C.

Left out of the party were Cleveland (with a 1.0 percent month-to-month decline), Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Seattle.

Now what's to come is anybody's guess. My recent interview with Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries notes that factors swing both ways. On the positive side, there's recently increased affordability (prices are nearly 30 percent off their 2006 peak, notes the AP). On the negative side, it looks like more foreclosures will be coming, so that even as new purchasers take some homes off the market, the new foreclosures should keep us in our current state of oversupply.

Also, an interesting tweet today from the Wall Street Journal's James R. Hagerty (I know my Harvard professors' heads are spinning, but if Twitter is the technology that will bring you, dear reader, the fastest news, I'll use it) that Hong Kong is trying to curb its property boom. The source story, from Global Edge UK, notes that down payments in Hong Kong are being increased from 30 percent to 40 percent to dampen high-end demand.

That's a fun fact coupled with our recent report that London prices are at record highs.

If you're really rich and you're not holding dollars (given the way the dollar's getting pounded, maybe those two statements are the same thing?) real estate is starting to look like a welcoming place to put your money again.

For the rest of us, a little bit of good news, but let's not get too confident.

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Follow the Wall Street Journal's James R. Hagerty on Twitter
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