The Halifax index of house prices returned to a downward path in February after surprising many when it showed house prices rising in January.

The February figure suggests that on a seasonally adjusted basis 2.3% was wiped off the value of an average home - that equates to £3,800.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the measure used by the futures market, Halifax put the value of the average house at £159,208 down almost £42,000 from the peak in August 2007. That is about 21%.

The drop was much anticipated, but will do little to calm the nerves of residential developers and house builders who are eager for some good news as the spring buying season kicks in.

While there are those, and Halifax is among them, that are pointing to signs of stability, I would suggest it is rather too early to call.

Until the pattern of unemployment is clearer, I think it is far from obvious what will happen to the housing market.

We have yet to see a real spate of forced sales in this recession, except, that is, from house builders. And it is always possible that we may not.

Certainly, with interest rates low many people that have had difficulties selling are looking to and feel they can afford to "ride out the storm" by renting their unsold property.

A sharp rise in unemployment or a further downward twist in house price may have them reconsidering that position, though.

This is but speculation. However the risks are there for a further nasty downturn (Not so nasty if you are an eager buyer).

So there is, in my view, a little way to go yet before we can confidently think about calling the bottom of the market.