U.S. home prices continued their steady upward march in February as buyers competed for a limited number of available properties.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.4 percent that month compared with a year earlier. That's down slightly from January's 5.7 percent rise.

Prices are rising even as sales have leveled off in recent months. The number of homes for sale last month was 1.5 percent lower than a year earlier. That's pushed buyers to act quickly, with homes on the market just 47 days in March, according to the National Realtors' Association.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The February figures are the latest available.