NEW YORK (AP) _ Home prices ticked up in July for the fourth straight month, but many cities are bracing for declines in the year ahead. The price increases were fueled by now-expired homebuyer tax credits. With the peak buying season over, a record number of foreclosures,  job concerns and weak demand from buyers are pushing prices down.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday increased 0.6 percent in July from June and 3.2 percent from a year ago.  Twelve cities showed monthly price gains, while Cleveland’s prices were flat.  However, seven cities showed month-over-month declines and the gains in many cities were weaker from the previous month.

The report measures home prices over three months. However, sales and prices in two of those months – May and June – were inflated by the government tax credits.  July had the slowest sales pace in 15 years, and sales in August weren’t much better.

Twelve out of the 20 cities increased in July over June. The non-seasonally adjusted index showed home prices in California cities continued to appreciate, with Los Angeles up 0.3% from June, San Diego up 0.7% and San Francisco up 0.5%.

Some of the cities that saw the biggest gains were Detroit, up 1.6% from the prior month; New York, 1.3%; Washington, 1.1%; and Chicago, 1%.

Cities that declined included Las Vegas, which fell the most, down 0.8%; Phoenix, down 0.6%; and Denver, 0.4%. Cleveland was the one city that was exactly flat in terms of appreciation.

Nationally, prices have risen almost 7 percent from their April 2009 bottom but they remain nearly 28 percent below their July 2006 peak.

Most experts predict about 5 million homes will be sold this year. That would be in line with last year and just above 2008, the worst sales performance since 1997.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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