Home prices just barely moved upward in January, according to the monthly S&P/Case-Shiller data released Tuesday.

Its 10-city composite index, which includes Boston, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, increased 0.4% in January compared to the previous month. The 20-city composite, which covers those same 10 cities plus Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Minneapolis, Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Seattle, and Tampa, saw an even smaller gain of 0.3% for the same time periods. (Those both represent seasonally adjusted numbers.)

The improvements, while small, were fairly widespread. Prices increased in 12 of Case-Shiller’s 20 markets, and nine markets posted annual home price increases.

Such observations appeared to offer little encouragement to Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, a research firm in Lexington, Mass.

Going forward, forces that will bring home prices back down are mounting,” he said. “Demand has dropped significantly since the first home buyer tax credit expired, and the second credit, up to now, is having minimal effects, the housing glut is still near record highs, and foreclosures—which hit an all-time high at the end of 2009, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association—are likely to go even higher. Our view is that despite this report, prices have further to fall—about another 5%.”

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index incorporates home value data on all homes sold (including those with jumbo loans) in 20 major housing markets around the country. It typically shows more dramatic home price changes than the Federal Housing Finance Agency home price index, which is based on the purchase prices of homes with loans owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in all 50 states.

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.

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