A for sale sign in a River Valley Highlands neighborhood...

A for sale sign in a River Valley Highlands neighborhood in Lancaster, Ohio. (May 20, 2012) Credit: Bloomberg

An index of home prices in 20 American cities slumped in March compared to a year earlier, but the slide was the slowest since December 2010.

The S&P Case Shiller index of property values fell 2.6 percent after falling 3.5 percent in February.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, however, the index rose from the month before after a similar increase in February _ the two-month streak since a tax credit for home-buyers expired in spring 2010.

The data signal a potential turnaround in the housing market, or at the very least signs of stabilization, analysts believe.

Home values showed year-over-year declines in 13 of the index's 20 cities. Cities reaching new lows were Chicago; Las Vegas; New York; Portland, Ore.; and Atlanta, which suffered an 18 percent plunge.

Phoenix had the most substantial increase, with prices rising 6.1 percent.

The index, created by economists Karl E. Case and Robert J. Shiller, is widely considered the most reliable read on home values. The housing index compares the latest sales of detached houses with previous sales and accounts for factors such as remodeling that might affect a house's sale price over time.

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