Although that rate was slightly slower than in the previous month, it beat analysts' expectations and represented prices rising at a "breakneck pace," noted Jed Kolko, economist for the online real estate marketplace Trulia.
Nationally, house prices increased 11.3 percent for the year, according to the index. As measured by the 20-city composite index, prices rose 13.4 percent year-over-year in December.
That made 2013 the best year for housing prices since 2005, noted S&P's David Blitzer in the index's release, but gains have slowed month to month and "the strongest part of the recovery in home values may be over."
House prices remain roughly 20 percent off their pre-crisis highs set in the summer of 2006.
Tuesday's release suggests that housing price gains were slowing before January, when other economic data were clouded by wintry storms taking place across much of the U.S.
Top economic policymakers such as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had high hopes for growth early in the year, citing an improved fiscal outlook and other economic "tailwinds." It's not clear whether the rough weather in January and early February in many parts of the U.S. masked a real slowdown in a number of sectors or simply scrambled the data.