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A few weeks ago, the American economy was hit by the news that home prices in 20 U.S. metropolitan areas had dropped more than 15% in May from the previous year, the biggest decline on record. The Case-Shiller indexes that show the annual declines in home prices across the U.S. generally continued to get worse.

Most analysts trace the origins of the plunge to the demise of the subprime housing market over the summer of 2007. The turbulence rapidly leaked into the prime sector producing a generally destabilizing effect on the overall housing market.

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