Washington (AP) — Home prices kept rising in July across the United States, buoyed by greater sales and fewer foreclosures.
National home prices increased 1.2 percent in July, compared to the same month last year, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller index released Tuesday. That's the second straight year-over-year gain after two years without one.
The report also says prices rose in July from June in all 20 cities tracked by the index. That's the third straight month in which prices rose in every city.
Steady price increases and record-low mortgage rates are helping drive a housing recovery.
In the 12 months ending in July, prices have risen in 16 of 20 cities. In Phoenix, one of the cities hardest hit by the housing bust, prices are up 16.6 percent in that stretch. Prices in Minneapolis and Detroit have risen more than 6 percent.
"We are more optimistic about housing," David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P's index committee. "Stronger housing numbers are a positive factor for other measures, including consumer confidence."
Still, many first-time homebuyers are unable to qualify for a mortgage or can't afford larger down payments required by banks.
Home sales could get a further boost from the Federal Reserve. The Fed said two weeks ago that it would purchase $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month until the economy and hiring improve substantially. That's likely to keep mortgage rates at record-low rates for some time.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)