US house prices fall to lowest level for nine years

House repossession sale
Image caption A glut of repossessed and vacant properties is holding back a housing market recovery,

A report on US house sales has said that prices fell by 5.2% in February to their lowest in almost nine years.

The National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million.

That is down 9.6% from 5.4 million in January, and far below the 6 million level that economists regard as a healthy market.

The average price of a previously-owned home is now $156,100 (£96,000).

Millions of home repossessions have forced down home prices and more are expected this year as continuing high unemployment takes its toll.

There is also a glut of unsold homes on the market, which is holding back recovery.

The number of unsold homes rose to 3.49 million in February.

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