The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index posted its largest annual decline in its 20-year history in the fourth quarter of 2007 as it fell 8.9% from the same period in 2006, Standard & Poor's announced this morning (Feb. 26).

The index that covers the original 10 cities in the Case-Shiller series fell 9.8%, also a new record, and the 20-city index was down 9.1%.

"Home prices across the nation and in most metro areas are significantly lower than where they were a year ago," said Robert J. Shiller, professor at Yale University and chief economist at MacroMarkets LLC.

On a month-to-month basis, the 10-city index was down 2.3% and the 20-city down 2.1%. Phoenix led the month-to-month declines, with a 3.5% drop. Among other cities, the big three in California were next, with San Diego off 3.4%, San Francisco down 3.4% and Los Angeles declining 3.1%. Las Vegas was not far behind, down 2.9%, followed by Miami, down 2.6%; Washington, down 2.5%; and Minneapolis, down 2.1%. All measured markets posted month-to-month declines in December.

"Wherever you look things look bleak, with 17 of the 20 metro areas reporting annual declines and the remaining three reporting flat or moderate growth rates," said Shiller. "Looking closely at these negative returns, you will see that 14 of the metro areas are also reporting record lows and eight are in double digit decline. The monthly data paint a similar picture, with all metro areas now reporting at least four consecutive negative monthly returns."

On an annual basis, Miami remains the weakest market, with an annual decline of 17.5%, followed by Las Vegas and Phoenix, down 15.3% each. San Diego was down 15%, Los Angeles was down 13.7% and San Francisco was down 10.8%.Other cities with double-digit annual declines included Tampa, down 13.3%, and Detroit, down 13.6%.

Charlotte, Portland and Seattle are the only three cities still experiencing positive annual growth rates, with Seattle barely hanging on at a 0.5% increase.

Separately, the U.S. Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight, which measures only home sales financed by loans that conform to the standards of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported a decline of 1.3% in its purchase-only index in the fourth quarter of 2007 from the previous quarter and a decline of 0.3% on a year-to-year basis. It was the first annual decline in the index since it was created in 1991.

Quarterly declines were posted in the fourth quarter for every state besides Maine. The OFHEO report also said that, adjusted for inflation, real home prices declined 4.3% in 2007.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.