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Decline in home prices is expected to slow

Home prices in 20 US cities probably declined at a slower pace and consumer confidence improved, signs the economy gained strength heading into 2012, economists said before reports this week.

Property values dropped 3.2 percent in October from the same month in 2010, the smallest year-over-year drop since January, according to the median forecast of 20 economists before a report Tuesday from S&P/Case-Shiller. Consumer confidence rose to a five-month high in December and more people signed contracts to buy previously owned homes than a month earlier, other data may show.

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Rising builder confidence, fewer unsold new properties on the market, and a pickup in construction point to improvement in the industry that triggered the last recession. Real estate is still facing another wave of foreclosures that may keep pressure on home prices.

Economists surveyed projected the gauge of residential real-estate values declined 0.3 percent in October from the prior month, when it fell 0.6 percent. The index was down 31 percent in September from its July 2006 peak.

The year-over-year gauge is a better indicator of trends.

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