Biz Break: Bay Area, other big real estate markets: ‘No real hope’ for quick …

Today: The San Francisco metro area is one of 18 of the top 20 with year-over-year home value declines. Plus: Amazon launches its cloud music service. And: Former eBay (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman is reportedly joining Kleiner Perkins.

Real estate update

Real estate values in much of the San Francisco Bay Area are continuing to decline, according to the latest Standard Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price report released today.


values in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metro area — which includes San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo counties — dropped 1.9 percent in January from the month before and were down 1.7 percent year over year, according to the report.

San Francisco was one of 18 of 20 metro areas with year-over-year declines. The only areas with gains were San Diego, at 0.1 percent, and Washington, D.C., at 3.6 percent. Eight metro areas — Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and Tampa — had year-over-year drops of 6.7 percent or more.

“Keeping with the trends set in late 2010, January brings us weakening home prices with no real hope in sight for the near future,” David M. Blitzer,

chairman of SP’s index committee, said in the report.

Pointing to a potential “double dip” for the nation’s real estate market, 11 cities — Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and Tampa — reached new lows from the market’s peak in 2006 and 2007.

“The housing market recession is not yet over, and none of the statistics are indicating any form of sustained recovery,” Blitzer noted. “At most, we have seen all statistics bounce along their troughs; at worst, the feared double-dip recession may be materializing.”

Although San Jose is Northern California’s largest city, it’s not included in the Case-Shiller indexes because its metro area is not one of the nation’s 20 largest.

Earlier this month, however, DataQuick Information Systems reported that the median sale price for existing single-family homes in Santa Clara County was $495,000 in February, down 3 percent year over year.

The Case-Shiller indexes are intended to track the values of typical single-family homes in a region.

Amazon’s cloud music services

Seattle online retail giant Amazon has launched two consumer “cloud computing” products: Amazon Cloud Drive, which allows users to store as much as 5 gigabytes of music for free, and Amazon Cloud Player for the Web, which plays back that music on Macs, PCs and devices running Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system.

(Yes, conspicuous by their absence on that list are Apple’s (AAPL) ubiquitous “i” devices — the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.)

“We’re excited to take this leap forward in the digital experience,” Bill Carr, Amazon’s vice president of movies and music, said in a news release. “The launch of Cloud Drive, Cloud Player for Web and Cloud Player for Android eliminates the need for constant software updates as well as the use of thumb drives and cables to move and manage music.”

According to numerous news stories — including a report Sunday by the Merc’s Mike Swift — Apple and Google are working on cloud-based streaming music services.

According to an Associated Press report today, Amazon’s service is intended to help the company sell more online music. Amazon will provide 20GB of storage to customers who buy an MP3 album — and won’t count MP3s purchased from Amazon against storage limits.

More tech news

Venture capital: Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman — the Republican candidate for California governor last year — is joining Silicon Valley VC powerhouse Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers as a strategic adviser, Fortune magazine’s Postcards blog is reporting today.

Whitman, you might recall, lost the election, but has landed on the boards of Palo Alto tech pioneer Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), car-sharing service Zipcar and consumer-products giant Procter Gamble.

Zynga: D’oh! We forgot to write about Lady Gaga.

It was such a busy tech news day yesterday we neglected to note that the pop star has teamed up with San Francisco social games upstart Zynga — the company behind titles such as “FarmVille” and “CityVille” — to raise $1.5 million to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Today — speaking of “FarmVille” — Zynga is celebrating a new version of that game, “FarmVille English Countryside,” by parading sheep in London and New York.

Silicon Valley tech stocks

Up: Apple, Google, Oracle (ORCL), Cisco Systems (CSCO), eBay, VMware, Gilead Sciences (GILD), Yahoo (YHOO).

Down: Intel (INTC), Hewlett-Packard.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 26.21, or 1 percent, to 2,756.89.

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 81.13, or 0.7 percent, to 12,279.01.

And the widely watched Standard Poor’s 500 index: Up 9.25, or 0.7 percent, to 1,319.44.

Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Frank Russell at 408-920-5876. Follow him at

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