House prices posted double-digit gains in almost half of the 129 metropolitan statistical areas in 2004, according to the National Association of Realtors.The NAR's fourth-quarter metro area home price report shows that 62 MSAs had double-digit annual increases in median existing-home prices -- setting a new record. The previous record was 49 MSAs in the second quarter of 2004. The NAR also reported that resale price appreciation accelerated in the fourth quarter to an annual rate of 8.8%, compared with 7.5% in the third quarter. NAR chief economist David Lereah said analysts looking for signs of weakness in the housing market will be disappointed. Only four MSAs reported declines in housing prices, and those metro areas had not experienced rapid price growth. "In fact, they were all lower-cost areas experiencing one or both of the conditions necessary for temporary price softness -- local economic weakness, mainly in jobs, or a large supply of homes available in the local market," Mr. Lereah said. The NAR can be found on the Internet at http://realtor.org.

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