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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 12, 2008

Items of interest:

Brenda Harris of North Las Vegas wishes she had taken a traditional fixed-rate loanNY Times:
Mortgage Crisis Spreads Past Subprime Loans -- The credit crisis is no longer just a subprime mortgage problem.

As home prices fall and banks tighten lending standards, people with good, or prime, credit histories are falling behind on their payments for home loans, auto loans and credit cards at a quickening pace, according to industry data and economists.

The rise in prime delinquencies, while less severe than the one in the subprime market, nonetheless poses a threat to the battered housing market and weakening economy, which some specialists say is in a recession or headed for one.

Until recently, people with good credit, who tend to pay their bills on time and manage their finances well, were viewed as a bulwark against the economic strains posed by rising defaults among borrowers with blemished, or subprime, credit.

This collapse in housing value is sucking in all borrowers,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com [...]

related:
Seeking Alpha:
Subprime Affects Prime -- "Millions of homes have been built around the country during the past few years using a financing option that no longer exists. There may never be enough capacity to absorb all of these homes and other existing homes using 30-year mortgages, because there simply aren't enough people with the incomes to meet the requirements. Prices could not roll back far enough without damaging the economy irreparably." – Michael Hill, CEO of luxury homebuilder Emerge Homes. (Washington Post, Feb. 11th)
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Hussman
John Hussman / Hussman Funds:
Watching for Audit Delays and "Qualified" Opinions --
via TBP
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Warren BuffettCNNMoney.com:
Buffett offers to help ailing bond insurers -- Billionaire's Berkshire Hathaway approached three largest firms, offering to reinsure $800 billion worth of of municipal bonds.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said Tuesday he has offered funding to prop up the troubled bond insurers, whose shaky finances threaten Wall Street.

The billionaire's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA, Fortune 500) approached the three largest bond insurers last week, offering to insure about $800 billion in tax-exempt bonds, Buffett told CNBC in a televised interview.

"This would just eliminate one major cloud from the market," said Buffett.

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO said one firm had already rejected the offer, and had not received a response from the other two.

Bond insurers MBIA (MBI), Ambac (ABK) and FGIC have been under scrutiny lately as the credit rating agencies have threatened to cut the companies sterling 'AAA' rating, due to a capital shortfall. [...]
related:
CNBC:
Warren Buffett to CNBC: I Will Reinsure $800B in Municipal Bonds
MarketWatch:
Buffett calls bond insurers' bluff, short sellers say
FTAlphaville:
Berkshire Hathaway offers monolines $800bn bond reinsurance
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I ain't voting for Monica Lewinsky's ex-boyfriends wife

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