U.S. home prices rise at fastest pace since 2006

U.S. home prices rose in January at the fastest annual pace since June 2006, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, which climbed 8.1 percent in the 12 months ending in January.

The index posted a 6.8 annual gain in December.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index is a three-month moving average and the January figures are the latest available.

Home prices nationwide still are 29 percent below their peak reached at the height of the housing bubble in August 2006. They only are back to where they were in August 2003.

Despite the surge in home prices, total sales of homes in the U.S. fell 4.6 percent in February at 411,000, the largest drop in two years, the Commerce Department reported today. Bad weather in February may have contributed to the home sales slump for the month.

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