WASHINGTON - Home prices in a majority of major U.S. cities tracked by a private trade group have fallen to their lowest levels since the housing bubble burst, and analysts expect further declines this year.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index fell 1 percent in December from November. Prices fell in all but one of the metropolitan markets tracked.

The only city to see a gain was Washington, where hiring by the federal government has helped boost the region's job market.

Eleven of the markets hit their lowest point since the housing bust, in 2006 and 2007: Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Tampa, Fla.

The housing sector is struggling even while the rest of the economy is showing signs of a slow but steady recovery. The latest evidence of this divide came Tuesday when the Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index rose in February to its highest point in three years.

The index surveys how people feel about hiring and income, and how they see that changing over the next six months.