UPDATE 1-Canada new home prices flat in March; Calgary prices drop

Thu May 14, 2015 8:37am EDT
 
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OTTAWA May 14 (Reuters) - New home prices in Canada were unchanged in March as prices in the oil-sensitive city of Calgary saw their first decline in over three years, data from Statistics Canada showed on Thursday.

The national figure fell shy of economists' expectations for a gain of 0.1 percent. Compared with a year ago, prices rose 1.2 percent, the slowest pace of growth since February 2010.

Canada has seen a robust housing market in the years since the global financial crisis, partly helped by low interest rates. While that has led to some concerns about the prospect of a painful correction, most economists and policymakers still expect a gradual softening.

In Calgary, prices fell 0.4 percent, the first decline since November 2011 after two months of no price change. Builders said the decrease was partly due to promotions needed to attract sales.

Prices were unchanged in Vancouver for the second month in a row, while the Toronto area saw the biggest gain in nearly a year with prices up 0.4 percent. The major cities of Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are often viewed as being separate from the national housing picture.

The new housing price index excludes apartments and condominiums, which the government says are a particular cause for concern and which account for one-third of new housing.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr Editing by W Simon)