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U.S. home prices rise faster than expected in February

The New York City Housing Authority Housing Developments on the Lower East Side (bottom C) is seen in New York, in this October 26, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. single-family home prices accelerated at a faster pace than expected in February, supported by a low inventory of housing stock, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas rose 5.9 percent in February on a year-over-year basis, after an unrevised 5.7 percent increase in January. February's result topped the estimate of a 5.7 percent increase from a Reuters poll of economists and was the biggest year-on-year increase since July 2014.

David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said the low stock of existing homes for sale - currently just 3.8 months of supply at current sales rates - is bolstering the price increases.

"Housing affordability has declined since 2012 as the pressure of higher prices has been a larger factor than stable to lower mortgage rates," he said.

On a monthly basis, prices in the 20 cities rose 0.7 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, the survey showed, just shy of expectations for a 0.8 percent increase.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, prices increased 0.4 percent from January.

(Reporting by Dan Burns; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)