The latest numbers from the Federal Housing Finance Agency have taken a lot of real estate brokers — as well as homeowners — by surprise. The government agency reports U.S. home prices actually rose 0.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from January to February.

A fluke or a sign of something more hopeful?

Most analysts say it's much too soon to read anything into one-month's worth of numbers. Prices over a longer period remain depressed. For the 12 months ending in February, U.S. prices fell 6.5 percent. The U.S. index is 9.5 percent below its April 2007 peak.

The FHFA monthly index is calculated using purchase prices of houses backing mortgages that have been sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

For the nine Census Divisions, seasonally-adjusted monthly price changes from January to February show the most improvement was in the west. In fact, prices ranged from a negative 1.2 percent in the East North Central Division to 3.8 percent gain in the Pacific Division.

In addition to the Pacific region, other regions showing a gain in home prices include the New England states with a 2.2 percent gain; West South Central states, with a 1.9 percent gain; West North Central states, with a 1.5 percent gain; the Middle Atlantic states with a 0.7 percent gain; and the Mountain region, with a 0.1 percent gain.

According to the report, February 2009 home values are roughly where they were in April 2005.