UPDATE 1-Canada house prices off 0.3 pct in Jan from Dec-Teranet

Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:34am EST
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By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO Feb 20 (Reuters) - Canadian home prices fell for the fifth month in a row in January from December and the year-over-year price gain was the smallest since 2009 as the housing market continued to cool.

The Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes, showed on Wednesday that overall prices fell 0.3 percent in January from a month earlier.

The index was up 2.7 percent from a year earlier, the smallest year-on-year gain since November 2009 and the 14th consecutive month of slowing house price inflation.

The report added to evidence that Canadian housing market activity has been slowing since the middle of 2012. Economists are debating whether the market will crash or manage a soft landing.

Canada's housing market avoided a meltdown after the financial crisis in 2009, helped by conservative lending standards and ultra-low interest rates.

But Canadian housing is swooning just as the U.S. market shows signs of recovery, in part because Canada's Conservative government last year tightened mortgage lending rules to slow the red-hot housing market.

The latest report showed prices dropped in January from December in seven of the 11 metropolitan markets surveyed, led by a 1.1 percent drop in Hamilton, a 0.8 percent decline in Vancouver and a 0.7 percent fall in Edmonton. Prices fell 0.4 percent in Toronto, 0.3 percent in Winnipeg, 0.2 percent in Montreal and 0.1 percent in Calgary.   Continued...