Economy Watch: Home Prices Still Rising on Annual Basis; State Unemployment Rates Edge Down; Residential Delinquencies Drop in ’13

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices rose but prices seem to be flattening, regional and state unemployment rates were generally lower in December and the number of U.S. residential loans delinquent increased slightly.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which were released on Tuesday by S&P Dow Jones Indices, showed that year-over-year in November, the 10-city and 20-city composite indexes increased 13.8 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively. But more recently, prices seem to be flattening. For the month of November, the two composites edged down by 0.1 percent.

Still, in year-over-year returns, the Sun Belt continues to push ahead, with Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and Tampa taking seven of the top nine spots. Detroit continues to recover but remains the only city with prices below its 2000 level. At 9.9 percent, Dallas posted its highest annual return since the inception of its index in 2000, and Chicago also stood out with an annual rate increase of 11 percent, its highest since December 1988.

“November was a good month for home prices,” David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, noted in a statement. “Despite the slight decline, the 10-city and 20-city composites showed their best November performance since 2005. Prices typically weaken as we move closer to the winter.”

State Unemployment Rates Edge Down

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday that regional and state unemployment rates were generally lower in December. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from November, while only two states had increases and nine states had no change.

Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rate among the states in December, coming in 9.1 percent. The next highest rates were in Nevada, at 8.8 percent – that state had long had the unwanted distinction of the highest state unemployment rate, but no more – and Illinois, at 8.6 percent. Oil-boom North Dakota continued to have the lowest jobless rate, coming in at 2.6 percent.

For the month of December, the largest month-to-month increases in employment occurred in Texas, which added 17,600 jobs, Florida (up 14,100 jobs) and California (up 13,600 jobs). The largest monthly decrease in employment occurred in New Jersey (down 36,300 positions), followed by Pennsylvania (down 11,400 jobs) and Kansas (down 7,400 jobs).

Residential Delinquencies Drop in ’13

According to the Black Knight (formerly LPS) First Look report, which was released on Tuesday, the number of U.S. residential loans delinquent increased slightly in December compared to November – likely as a result of seasonal factors – but was down almost 10 percent compared with December 2012. Currently, 6.47 percent of mortgages are delinquent, meaning 30 or more days past due, but not in foreclosure.

The number of loans in the foreclosure process stood at 2.48 percent in December, according to Black Knight. That’s the lowest level since late 2008, when delinquencies were headed skyward. The states with the highest levels of non-current loans – the combination of properties both delinquent and in foreclosure – are Mississippi, New Jersey, Florida, New York and Louisiana.

Wall Street had something of a rebound on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 90.68 points, or 0.57 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.61 percent and the S&P 500 advanced 0.35 percent.