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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — April 24, 2008

Items of Interest:

Bloomberg:
New-Home Sales in the US Plunge More Than Forecast -- Purchases of new homes in the US plunged more than forecast in March to the lowest level in almost 17 years as stricter loan rules and falling prices caused buyers to hold off...

The median sales price slumped 13.3 percent from the same time last year, the most in almost four decades...

MarketWatch: New-home sales plunge 8.5% to 17-year low in March
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NY Times Magazine:
Triple-A Failure -- Mortgage volume surged; in 2006, it topped $2.5 trillion. Also, many more mortgages were issued to risky subprime borrowers. Almost all of those subprime loans ended up in securitized pools; indeed, the reason banks were willing to issue so many risky loans is that they could fob them off on Wall Street.

But who was evaluating these securities? Who was passing judgment on the quality of the mortgages, on the equity behind them and on myriad other investment considerations? Certainly not the investors. They relied on a credit rating.

Thus the agencies became the de facto watchdog over the mortgage industry. In a practical sense, it was Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s that set the credit standards that determined which loans Wall Street could repackage and, ultimately, which borrowers would qualify. Effectively, they did the job that was expected of banks and government regulators. And today, they are a central culprit in the mortgage bust, in which the total loss has been projected at $250 billion and possibly much more...
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The Big Picture:
Volatile Real Estate Market Driving Web Traffic --
Marketwatch video: Zillow upgrades their algo, claiming a 12% improvement. They also are allowing homeowners to improve and upgrade data about their houses:

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Wall Street Journal:
Drinks? DJs? See Realtor Inside -- Despite sluggish home sales in most of the country, some Realtors and developers are sinking money into lavish open-house parties that they hope will draw crowds -- and an eventual buyer...

The Brighter Side of Housing -- The Wall Street Journal's quarterly survey of housing-market conditions in 28 major metro areas points to continued downward pressure on prices in much of the country...

Advice on Selling a Home Without a Real-Estate Agent -- June Fletcher has tips for a Minnesota home owner who is selling a condo in a resort area on her own...

Four at Four: Rice, Beer and UPS -- Food-related protests have been occurring worldwide, and in the U.S. now major discounters are seeing runs on products, particularly rice, as both Sam’s Club, the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. operated discounter, and Costco Wholesale Corp. have seen shelves cleaned out of rice as consumers worry about higher prices.

“It is just unreal what can happen when we get fear being spread as it is now, and when the general populace goes out and starts doing idiotic things like lining up at the Sam’s Club and the Costco and not buying one bag but buying 10 bags just because they might run out,” says Neauman Coleman, introducing broker at Neauman Coleman & Co. in Brinkley, Ark. Sam’s Club has decided to put limits (or rations, if you will) on the amount of 20-pound bags customers can purchase every week, and Costco earlier this week said it was considering such limits as well, which in a way is just as panicky a response...
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