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NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Reuters) - U.S. single-family home prices accelerated at a faster pace than expected in December on the back of a low inventory of housing stock, a survey showed on Tuesday.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas rose 5.6 percent in December on a year-over-year basis, up from a downwardly adjusted 5.2 percent climb in November. December's result topped the estimate of a 5.3 percent increase from a Reuters poll of economists.
"Home prices continue to advance, with the national average rising faster than at any time in the last two-and-a-half years," said David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
Nevertheless, Blitzer said, the pace of increases is not alarming when examined in an inflation-adjusted, historical context. While the current annualized pace, adjusted for inflation, is 3.8 percent compared with an average since 1975 of 1.3 percent, it is within a normal range of between negative 4 percent and positive 7 percent.
On a monthly basis, prices in the 20 cities rose 0.9 percent in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the survey showed, outpacing expectations for a 0.7 percent increase.
On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, prices increased 0.3 percent from November. (Reporting by Dan Burns; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)