Oh, the humanity

More bad news from the Wall Street Journal this week. Home-price declines continued to get steeper in April, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller indexes and the Ofheo home price index, which showed at least three years of gains erased, the paper reports.

Separately, consumer confidence dropped like a stone in June, and expectations hit an all-time low, according to the latest survey from the Conference Board.

The Journal further reports that home prices in 20 major U.S. cities have dropped a record 15.3 percent in the past year and are now back to where they were in 2004, according to the Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor's. In a separate report, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said U.S. home prices fell to December 2005 levels during April as the housing downturn continued to affect states at the heart of the real estate boom.

But in what may be a small sign that things are at the brink of a turnaround in some areas, three of the major metropolitan areas studied -- while still posting negative annual figures -- did show some improvement over the declines reported last month. And eight of the 20 metro areas covered showed home-price growth in April from March. Our man David Blitzer, chairman of Standard & Poor's index committee, said, "There might be some regional pockets of improvement," though "on an annual basis the overall numbers continue to decline," according to the paper.

And the Conference Board's consumer confidence index, based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, fell to 50.4 in June, from 58.1 in May. This was the fifth lowest reading ever, Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, told the paper.

She said the increasingly negative views suggest "the economy remains stuck in low gear."

And matters aren't looking any better to consumers in the months ahead. The index measuring consumer expectations fell to a record low of 41.0, from 47.3 in May.

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