A rotting foundation for US housing

With house prices in much of the US now at their lowest point since mid-2006, fears are growing, despite Wall Street's optimism, that the country has entered a new period of decline.

The US sharemarket faced a stark reality check overnight, with new data showing that housing prices in 20 major US cities dropped in December to the lowest level since the housing crisis first began in mid-2006.

As the Dow closed above 13,000 for the first time since May 2008, investors were optimistic that consumer confidence data released overnight, which showed the strongest sentiment in over a year, was indicative of a strengthening US economy.

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