Housing markets continue to improve according to the S&P Case Shiller Home Price Indices released April 30 for February's data. The Indices consist of a 10-City Composite Index and a 20-City Composite Index with housing markets for each city reported based on a three-month rolling average of home prices. Case Shiller Posts Highest Growth Rates Since 2006 The data released yesterday comprised the Indices' highest growth rates since May 2006. For the 12 months between February 2012 and February 2013, the 10-City Composite Index reports that average home prices posted a gain of 8.6 percent and average home prices for the 20-City Composite Index grew by 9.3 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. All 20 cities posted a year-over-year gain for at least two consecutive months. The 10-City Composite Index grew by 0.4 percent between January and February, while the 20-City Composite Index grew by 0.3 percent for the same time period. 16 of the 20 cities reported rising annual growth rates for home sales between January and February 2013, while four cities including Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and Phoenix saw decreases between -0.1 and -0.4 percent in annual home prices between January and February 2013 readings. Longer-term readings provide a more positive light, as with the example for Phoenix, Arizona. The month-to-month reading of annual home prices indicated a decrease, but the reading for Phoenix year over year indicates a + 23.0 percent increase in average home prices. Ten Metro Areas Gain Double Digits Over Past Year 10 cities posted double-digit year-over-year growth rates; they include Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and Tampa. San Diego and Tampa have joined the double-digit cities in February with average home prices increasing for each city of just over 10 percent. Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Atlanta posted the highest year-over-year gains in average home prices. Three older cities, New York, Boston and Chicago posted the lowest year-over-year rates in average home price readings. Atlanta and Dallas achieved the highest annual growth rates since the inception of the 10-City Composite (1991) and the 20-City Composite (2001). Improving Housing Markets Seen As Beacon Of Economic Recovery Improving housing markets are considered a leading indicator of overall economic recovery as home ownership typically increases wealth and leads to more spending. Economists note that while current news for housing markets is good, average home prices remain at 2003 levels, which can be very good for new home buyers. Shortages of available homes in some areas and news that apartment construction is increasing can impact availability and ultimately, the sale of single-family homes.