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Canadian house prices stay strong in 4th quarter

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's housing market continued to post strong price gains in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to figures released on Tuesday by home-seller Royal LePage Real Estate Services.

Nationally, the average cost of a standard two-storey house in the quarter went up 11.3 percent year-on-year to C$399,738 in the quarter. But in the booming Prairie province of Saskatchewan, which is riding a wave of demand for natural resources such as oil, gas, potash and uranium, the rise was a scorching 56.7 percent to C$321,250.

The figures are in stark contrast to the U.S. housing market, which has been reeling from rising defaults in the subprime mortgage sector.

U.S. house prices posted their first quarterly drop in 13 years in the third quarter of 2007, according to figures released at the end of November by Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

On Tuesday, Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren said the U.S. housing market is headed for its worst performance in 50 years and the drop in home prices could accelerate if the economy weakens.

In Canada, there are few signs of a comparable weakening.

"As we move to the new year, activity levels are expected to wane from the frantic pace many regions of the country experienced in 2007; however average prices are expected to continue to rise, albeit at a much moderate pace," Phil Soper, chief executive of Royal LePage, said in a release.

The resource-rich Prairie province of Alberta was the leading real estate market at the start of 2007, but Royal Lepage said that in the fourth quarter "a surplus of inventory tempered activity levels and provided buyers with a selection of listings from which to choose."

Price gains for a standard two-storey house in Calgary, Alberta, Canada's oil industry capital, weakened below the national average at 8.5 percent to C$461,811.

Vancouver, British Columbia, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, remains Canada's most expensive real estate market. The price of a standard two-storey house jumped 11.4 percent to C$895,000.

In Toronto, Canada's largest city and the country's second most expensive real estate market, the price increase was slightly below the national average at 8 percent to C$506,900.

($1=$1.00 Canadian)

Reuters 2008 (Tuesday, January 08, 2008)