United States home prices on average plunged at the quickest rate yet in December, giving the real estate sector bad news across the board, and related investments and exchange traded funds (ETFs) little light in the dark tunnel.

As the U.S. economy at large inks deeper into a recession, the U.S. housing market has taken hits to the price of an average home, and signs are everywhere that a rebound is far off. Jack Healy for The New York Times reports that single-family home values in major metro areas fell 18.5% in December, compared to one year before, and home prices dropped 2.5% from November 2008-December 2008.

Across the country, home prices fell to their lowest levels since the third quarter of 2003. Across the board, price have fallen in the 20 cities in the Case-Shiller Index (check out the interactive graphic at The New York Times to see which cities have been hardest-hit), and development has halted. Economists are worried that the downward spiral of deflation may cause potential home buyers to wait on the sidelines for prices to fall further. The bottom is not in sight as of yet.

  • iShares Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate (IYR): down 5.3% over three months; down 11.1% over one week.

Home Depot (HD) reported fiscal fourth-quarter net loss on $602 million in charges related to its exit from some businesses. The company expects earnings for the new fiscal year to be down about 7% from last year, to about $1.25 a share, reports Dow Jones Newswires.

The company is restructuring and is hoping to boost earnings to gross $305 million for the fiscal new year. Last week, Lowe’s (LOW) reported a 60% drop in profits for its fiscal fourth quarter, hurt by falling sales and margins. It projected upcoming earnings below analysts’ estimates.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.