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Friday, May 23, 2008

Housing/Subprime/Credit Roundup — May 23, 2008

Items of Interest:

existing home sales in the US fell 1% in April to a 4.89 million-unit annual rateBloomberg:
Home Resales Decline, Inventories Jump -- Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. fell in April and the supply of unsold properties reached a record, signaling no let-up in the 27-month housing slump.

Purchases declined 1 percent to an annual rate of 4.89 million, higher than forecast, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The median price fell 8 percent from April last year, the second-biggest drop.

``There is no indication that things are improving,'' said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York, who forecast sales would drop to a 4.9 million pace. ``Inventories will stay out of balance at least until the end of 2009 and prices will keep falling.''

National Association of Realtors:
Existing-Home Sales Ease Due to Mortgage Restrictions; Some Markets Rising

The Big Picture:
Existing Homes Sales Fall; NAR seeks a PhD in Absurdism --
"Existing-home sales slowed in April, partly because restrictive lending practices hampered home buyers. At the same time, more areas are showing gains, and a reversal in mortgage policy means the market is better positioned for a turnaround." (emphasis added) -- NAR, May 23, 2008
Housing Doom blog:
April National Existing Home Sales: Sales Down, Inventory At Record Levels
Existing Home Sales Back to Prior Lows -- the argument that real estate is getting better can't be made yet.

Existing Home sales and Home Builder stocks---
Wall Street Journal:
Fannie, Freddie Report Progress In Cutting Some Mortgage Rates -- Executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac told Congress they are finally bringing down interest rates on some "jumbo" mortgages.

The executives testified Thursday before the House Financial Services Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, was seeking information on why such mortgages have remained relatively expensive.

Jumbo mortgages are those larger than the normal limit -- currently $417,000 -- on loans that can be sold to Fannie and Freddie, government-sponsored companies that provide the bulk of funding for U.S. home loans. Rates on such loans soared in mid-2007 as rising defaults caused investors to shun loans other than those backed by Fannie, Freddie or the Federal Housing Administration. High rates on jumbo loans hurt housing demand in expensive areas such as California or much of the East Coast, where even a modest home often costs more than $500,000...
The Big Picture:
James Galbraith Says Housing Problem to Last `Long Time' -- James Galbraith, an economics professor at the University of Texas, talks with Bloomberg's Matt Miller from Austin, Texas, about the outlook for the U.S. economy and the challenges facing the next president, the impact of Federal Reserve monetary policy on inflation, and the state of the U.S. housing market.
Wall Street Journal:
Builders Tout Incentives In Bid to Sell Homes -- Highlighting their desperation to sell houses, builders are bringing back the gimmicks -- mortgage rates that start low, help with down payments, zero out-of-pocket expenses -- that helped fuel the housing bubble before it went bust...

Lennar Sell-A-Thon, Memorial Day Weekend 2008
CNN Money:
Builders Tout No-Money Down, Adjustable Mortgages -- This weekend, Lennar Corp., the nation's largest builder by revenue, will start interest rates at 2.88% for the first year - 3.88% for the second - before a slightly higher rate locks "for life." [during their "Sell-A-Thon"] ...
Wall Street Journal:
Home-Price Declines Accelerate -- Home prices are falling faster as the economy slows and turmoil in the mortgage markets continues.

Prices fell an average of 1.7% nationwide in the first quarter from the final three months of 2007, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. The decline was the largest in the index's 17-year history. The government index, which is seasonally adjusted and based on data for home purchases, had dropped 1.4% in the prior quarter. Compared with a year earlier, home prices dropped 3.1% in the first quarter...
Wall Street Journal / Econ blog:
Ofheo vs. Case-Shiller: A Primer -- The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight home-price index and the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index... are arguably the two most closely watched barometers of U.S. home prices. However, there are some key differences among them. Read a recent Capital column that compares and contrasts the two indexes.
Paper Economy blog:
Collapsedachusetts Existing Home Sales Preview: April 2008 -- Sources inside the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) report that next week’s monthly existing home sales results will show that April single family home sales crashed 15.8% on a year-over-year basis while condo sales collapsed a stunning 26.6% over the same period.

Further, the single family median home value declined a whopping 8.7% on a year-over-year basis to $314,900 while condo median prices remained unchanged at $275,000...
NY City Housing Bubble blog
Housing's False Bottom -- Japan's land prices rose for a long time, and declined for a long time. This characteristic is shared by bubbles in all time frames and locales...

Japan land price bubble---
The Mess That Greenspan Made blog:
This is what five dollar gas looks like -- Via the L.A. Land blog - they say this is from Death Valley so it doesn't really count, but this is what it will look like someday in other areas.

$5 dollar gas in California

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