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The S&P/Case-Shiller home-price indexes, a closely watched gauge of U.S. home prices, show price declines continued to get steeper in April, with prices in every region surveyed now showing year-over-year drops.

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.

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.

David M. 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 indexes, home prices in 10 major metropolitan areas fell by a record 16.3% in April from a year earlier and 1.6% from March.

In 20 major metropolitan areas, home prices dropped 15.3% from a year earlier, also a record decline, and 1.4% from March.

Boston; Charlotte; Chicago, Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle were able to avoid April-over-March price drops, led by 2.9% growth in Cleveland and a 1.1% increase in Dallas. Charlotte and Dallas are the only two cities to have two consecutive months of month-to-month growth.

Miami and Phoenix were the worst performers month-to-month, each with negative returns in excess of 3%.

No region -- not even Charlotte, which had been the only city in the survey to post annual growth the other months this year -- was able to avoid a year-over-year drop. Charlotte saw its prices decline 0.1%.

Las Vegas and Miami were again the weakest markets over the past year, posting 26.8% and 26.7% drops, respectively. Las Vegas and Miami were the weakest markets each of the other months this year. S&P noted that the two markets saw some of the fastest growth in the 2004/2005 periods, with annual growth rates surging above 53% and 32%, respectively.

The S&P/Case-Shiller results come a day after Harvard University's annual report on housing said the housing slump, already shaping up to be the worst in a generation, still hasn't run its full course. The study said the fall in home prices and the rise in mortgage defaults are the worst since the 1960s and 1970s.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said last week that construction of new homes dropped 3.3% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 975,000. Housing starts were down 32% from a year earlier, while permits for new-home construction, a gauge of future building activity, dropped 1.3% in May to an annual rate of 969,000.

Consumer Confidence Tumbles

The Board's 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, noted Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

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.

"Perhaps the silver lining to this otherwise dismal report is that consumer confidence may be nearing a bottom," Ms. Franco said.

Perceptions of the current situation nevertheless have some way to go before they match the pessimism of people's outlook, however. The present situation subindex fell to 64.5 in June, from 74.2 in May.

The Conference Board reported an increase in those claiming business conditions are bad to 32.5% from 29.7%, while those describing them as good fell to 11.5% from 13%.

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