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SAN DIEGO (AP) - A research firm says California home foreclosure starts increased from January through March after plunging to an eight-year low in the previous quarter.

DataQuick said Tuesday that there were slightly more than 19,200 default notices filed in the first quarter, up 6 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013 and up 4 percent from the same period a year earlier. Figures for the first quarter of 2013 were driven lower by new state laws designed to protect homeowners from losing property.

The San Diego-based research firm says default notices are expected to continue dropping, thanks to an improving economy and higher home prices. California home prices surged to a six-year high last month.

Default notices are the first step in the foreclosure process.

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