Home prices rose 1.3% in May, the second consecutive monthly increase, according to the just released Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller house price index.

Case reported that 19 of the 20 cities in the index recorded price increases. Only Las Vegas posted a decline in prices on a sequential basis.  The HPI has risen 4.6% since May of 2009. 

"While May's report on its own looks somewhat positive, a broader look at home price levels over the past year still does not indicate that the housing market is in any form of sustained recovery," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee.

The non-adjusted 20-city HPI shows that prices are up less than 6% since the index bottomed in April 2009 — despite the homebuyer tax credit which expired this spring.   

"It still looks possible that the housing market might bounce along the bottom for the foreseeable future, before showing any real improvement that will filter through to the rest of the economy," Blitzer said.

In other housing news, the U.S. homeownership rate slipped below 67% in the second quarter to the lowest level since 1999 as foreclosures and high unemployment continue to take their toll on the housing market.

The Census Bureau reported that the ownership rate slipped to 66.9% in the second quarter from 67.1% in the first quarter and 67.4% a year ago.

The 0.5 percentage point decline over the past four quarters means that at least 500,000 Americans have lost their homes or have become renters.

Tuesday's report also shows the homeownership rate for Blacks rose a 0.6% from the first to the second quarter to 46.2%.

However, the homeownership rate for Hispanics fell 0.7% in the second quarter to 47.8% — the lowest level since the second quarter of 2004.

The Census Bureau also reported that the number of vacant homes for sale totaled 1.97 million in the second quarter, up slightly from 1.9 million year ago.

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