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Friday, May 16, 2008

Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — May 16, 2008

Items of Interest:

April 2008 Housing StartsEconoday / Barrons:
April 2008 Housing Starts -- The housing sector in April rebounded unexpectedly but the improvement may actually reflect the fact that it is more difficult to get into single-family housing or at least merely volatility in multifamily starts. Starts rebounded 8.2 percent, following a sharp 13.8 percent drop in March. April's 1.032 million units annualized were still down 30.6 percent year-on-year and came in above the consensus expectation for a 0.940 million units. The April boost was led by a 36.0 percent rebound in multifamily starts as single-family starts slipped another 1.7 percent...

Barry Ritholtz / TBP:
Housing Starts Plunge 30.6% -- Does this look like a bottom to you ?

Diana Olick / CNBC Realty Check:
Housing Starts: The Numbers Are A Joke And Not A Funny One
Wall Street Journal:
Bernanke's Bubble Laboratory -- First came the tech-stock bubble. Then there were bubbles in housing and credit. Chinese stocks took off like a rocket. Now, as prices soar on every material from oil to corn, some suggest there's a bubble in commodities.

But how and why do bubbles form? Economists traditionally haven't offered much insight. From World War II till the mid-1990s, there weren't many U.S. investing manias for them to look at. The study of bubbles was left to economic historians sifting through musty records of 17th-century Dutch tulip-bulb prices and the like.

The dot-com boom began to change that. "You were seeing live, in action, the unfolding of lots of examples of valuations disconnecting from fundamentals," says Princeton economist Harrison Hong. Now, the study of financial bubbles is hot...
U.S. Consumer Confidence Falls to 28-Year Low, Single-Family Starts Drop -- U.S. consumer confidence was the weakest this month since Jimmy Carter was president, and single- family home construction fell to a 17-year low in April.

The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment dropped to 59.5, compared with an average reading of 85.6 in 2007. Builders broke ground on 692,000 single-family homes at an annual rate, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Total housing starts unexpectedly rose because of an increase in condominium construction...
Calculated Risk:
HELOCs: The New Subprime -- "...The market has, obviously, taken the view that the worst of the writedowns are behind us, and if anything it's now just a macroeconomic problem we face. I think that's dead wrong. We're now entering the phase where the macro impacts earnings, but also the stage where real cash losses start to hit the banks (subprime and Alt-A is primarily a mark-to-market issue, but HELOCs [Home Equity Line Of Credit] are going to be large, outright losses). Once WAMU, WFC, BAC and JPM start to get data through on how rapidly their HELOC portfolios are deteriorating, watch the losses pile up. I'm talking realised losses, not mark-to-market writedowns." ...

Calculated Risk

MishTalk - Mike Shedlock

Paul Krugman - NY Times

The Big Picture - Barry Ritholtz

naked capitalism - Yves Smith

Pragmatic Capitalism

Washington's Blog

Safe Haven

Paper Economy

The Daily Reckoning - Australia