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San Diego County home prices were up 5.9 percent in January compared to the same month a year ago, the most recent Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index revealed this morning.

It was the second-largest increase among any of the 20 urban areas studied nationwide in the index, behind San Francisco’s 9 percent rise.

San Diego prices also rose month-to-month between December and January, for the eighth straight monthly rise.

In January, prices were up 0.9 percent from December, according to a version of the index adjusted to account for normal seasonal trends, like the slow selling season in the winter.

Even the unadjusted version of the index, however, showed a slight increase from December, making San Diego only one of two cities to register such a bump.

Between the peak of the market and the trough in April 2009, prices fell 42.3 percent. They’ve been climbing back for several months now. But prices are still 37.3 percent below their levels in January 2000. And this January’s prices were about at the same level as they were in March 2003, according to the index.

The S&P servers seem to have crashed this morning, so I’ll keep you posted when I can download the more detailed numbers for San Diego.

On the national market, Case-Shiller analysts were guarded. They cheered the year-over-year increases in the 20-city index, but said the rebound housing prices saw last fall is “fading.”

In a press release with the numbers, Case-Shiller analyst David Blitzer said:

“Other recent data on housing also paint a mixed picture. Housing starts continue at extremely low levels, recent reports of home sales suggest the market remains difficult, and concerns remain about further foreclosures and a large shadow inventory of unsold homes. We are in a seasonally weak part of the year, but given the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price data reported today, we can’t say we’re out of the woods yet.”

— KELLY BENNETT

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