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August home prices seen 'glimmer of hope'

WASHINGTON -- Home prices rose in August in half of major cities measured by a private survey, a sign that prices are stabilizing in some hard-hit portions of the country.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index showed Tuesday prices rose in August from July in 10 of 20 cities tracked. That marked the fifth straight month at least half of the cities in the survey showed monthly gains. The biggest price increases were in Washington, Chicago and Detroit, the greatest declines in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

The August data provides a "modest glimmer of hope" some areas may have bottomed out and could be turning around, said David M. Blitzer, chairman of S&P's index panel. He noted cities in the Midwest -- Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis -- have shown some strength since May.

In Detroit, the recovering auto industry has helped lead a small rebound in the housing market. Home prices have risen 2.7 percent since August 2010. It and Washington are the only two cities to show a year-over-year gain in that time.

Detroit was one of the hardest hit after the housing bubble burst more than four years ago. Home prices there are coming off 1995 levels. So the gains are relatively small compared to how far prices have fallen.

Still, Robert Shiller, the co-founder of the index and a Yale economics professor, said in an interview on CNBC that overall home prices were "flat" and a recovery in the struggling housing market was not on the horizon.

Prices are certain to fall again once banks, delayed by a government probe, resume millions of foreclosures.

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