U.S. home prices rose 10.9 percent during the 12 months ended in March, the biggest such gain in almost seven years, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices in the nation's 20 biggest cities.

The consensus expectation among analysts polled by Briefing.com was for a 10.1 percent increase, higher than February's 9.3 percent actual level.

The index measures the change in selling price of single-family homes in 20 metropolitan areas and is a leading indicator of the housing industry's health, as rising home prices attract investors and spur industry activity. The index's three composites posted annual increases in the double-digits -- The 10-City and 20-City Composites increased in the year to March by 10.3 and 10.9 percent respectively while the national composite rose by 10.2 percent over four quarters.

All 20 cities posted positive year-over-year growth. Charlotte, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and Tampa, in particular, each posted monthly gains larger than any since 2006. The largest annual increases came from Phoenix at 22.5 percent followed by San Francisco's 22.2 percent and Las Vegas at 20.6 percent. New York Cleveland and Boston were the weakest performers, each recording 2.6, 4.8 and 6.7 percent annual price gains respectively. Yet for those markets, positive figures at those levels is considered significant.

"Other housing market data reported in recent weeks confirm these strong trends," said David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. According to Blitzer, housing starts and permits, sales of new home and existing homes continue to trend higher. "The larger than usual share of multi-family housing, a large number of homes still in some stage of foreclosure and buying-to-rent by investors suggest that the housing recovery is not complete."