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Friday, February 29, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 29, 2008

Items of interest:

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Rob K. Blak / Seeking Alpha:
Jumbo Mortgage Risk Will Topple the Teetering GSEs -- When President Bush signed the Economic Stimulus Act into law making jumbo mortgages GSE insurable, he may have unwittingly pushed our GSEs, Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE), already on tilt, over the edge. If you think we have a housing crisis now, wait until you see what the demise of the GSEs and subsequent secondary mortgage market would do.

Let’s start with a few facts here to bring you up to speed on all the players and the game.

First, we have the GSEs: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who for all practical purposes create and dominate our “prime” credit, full documentation, conforming loan limit (up to $417,000), bread and butter, mortgage products. They are considered “quasi-government” organizations but are really just NYSE traded companies with much more responsibility since they insure mortgage loans so they can be “pooled” and sold to Wall Street. [...]
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NY Times:
Facing Default, Some Walk Out on New Homes -- When Raymond Zulueta went into default on his mortgage last year, he did what a lot of people do. He worried.

In a declining housing market, he owed more than the house was worth, and his mortgage payments, even on an interest-only loan, had shot up to $2,600, more than he could afford. “I was terrified,” said Mr. Zulueta, who services automated teller machines for an armored car company in the San Francisco area.

Then in January he learned about a new company in San Diego called You Walk Away that does just what its name says. For $995, it helps people walk away from their homes, ceding them to the banks in foreclosure.

Last week he moved into a three-bedroom rental home for $1,200 a month, less than half the cost of his mortgage. The old house is now the lender’s problem. “They took the negativity out of my life,” Mr. Zulueta said of You Walk Away. “I was stressing over nothing.”

You Walk Away is a small sign of broad changes in the way many Americans look at housing. [...]
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Warren Buffett / CEO / Berkshire Hathaway:
Annual Letter to Shareholders [.pdf] -- You may recall a 2003 Silicon Valley bumper sticker that implored, “Please, God, Just One More Bubble.” Unfortunately, this wish was promptly granted, as just about all Americans came to believe that house prices would forever rise. That conviction made a borrower’s income and cash equity seem unimportant to lenders, who shoveled out money, confident that HPA – house price appreciation – would cure all problems. Today, our country is experiencing widespread pain because of that erroneous belief. As house prices fall, a huge amount of financial folly is being exposed. You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out – and what we are witnessing at some of our largest financial institutions is an ugly sight. [...]
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Bloomberg:
Vacant Homes in US, Most Since '70s, Ghost Towns -- Almost 200,000 newly constructed single-family homes are sitting empty in the U.S., the most since Commerce Department statistics began in 1973. Partially completed developments reduce revenue for cities and towns and hurt businesses, said Nicolas Retsinas, the director of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. Rising foreclosures and falling property values may cut tax revenue by more than $6.6 billion for 10 states, including New York, California and Florida, the U.S. Conference of Mayors said in a November report. [...]
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 28, 2008

Items of interest:

Todd Harrison / Minyanville:
The Hatfields and McCoys -- Hatfields? McCoys? No, not Julie--although she was Minxy—I'm talking about Aunt Fannie (FNM) and Uncle Freddie (FRE). For those who haven’t been following this Family Feud (read: for those enjoying life!) there is an old school shootout going down. [...]

With that said, I believe the potential that these companies will eventually be nationalized is a much higher probability than most folks currently assign. The “when” and "why" remain to be seen, making the path that we take to get there entirely more important than the destination.

The bottom line is this: If MBIA (MBI) and Ambac (ABK) are deemed too big to fail—which is inferred by the semantic socialization we’ve seen—Fannie and Freddie will be protected from up on high by the Prince of Darkness.

Food for thought as we figure it all out. [...]

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BeSpoke:
Light Bulb Flashes in Wells Fargo's Head -- Reuters published an article today highlighting a memo that Wells Fargo sent to its wholesale brokers on February 25th. Below is an excerpt from the story:
Wells Fargo said it has identified more than 200 U.S. counties with troubled housing markets, showing how falling home prices and rising defaults are no longer concentrated in particular regions.

Wells Fargo is tightening its lending standards in the affected markets effective Feb 29, in many cases by limiting the maximum size of loans as a percentage of home values. In some markets, it will not allow prospective purchasers to borrow more than 75 percent of the value of their homes.
Congrats to the super sleuths at Wells Fargo for realizing that housing markets have declined! Now that prices are down significantly from their peaks in 2005, they've finally begun tightening lending standards, making it harder for potential buyers to make purchases at much lower prices. [...]
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Bill Gross, Pimco:
Investment Outlook: No Country for Old Maids -- Yet those that claim that the Old Maid necessarily resides in a deck composed of mortgage loans are missing the larger point. This parlor game is best defined by leverage and not the assets that have been dealt out to more than willing players over the past decade. That subprimes have garnered the headlines is only because they were the asset class that failed first. Now as the U.S. economy slows to what Alan Greenspan labels “stall speed,” levered structures holding commercial loans, and auto and credit card receivables are the new Babes in waiting – waiting to be exposed for what some of them could be: Old Maids with collagen carelessly injected by Moody’s and S&P. [...]
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 27, 2008

Items of interest:

Reuters:
Mortgage applications fall to 2008 low: MBA -- Applications for home mortgages plunged to their lowest level this year, as rising long-term interest rates curbed incentives to refinance, an industry group's data showed on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity dropped 19.2 percent to 665.1 in the week ended February 22.

It marked the third straight week of a decline in the index, pushing home loan demand down to the lowest level in 2008.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications plunged 30.4 percent to 2,458.9 last week, its lowest since December. The decline came as the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate climbed to 6.27 percent from 6.09 percent in the previous week.

The 30-year rate has risen 0.78 percentage point since mid-January amid concerns short-term interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve will spark faster inflation. [...]

MarketWatch: Refinancing applications down 30.4% last week
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MarketWatch:
Toll Brothers posts loss, frets about recession talk -- Builder's quarterly write-down at low end of forecast; sees market 'glimmers'

Luxury home builder Toll Brothers on Wednesday swung to a fiscal first-quarter loss and said "ceaseless talk" about a recession is dampening the mood of consumers. [...]
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Wall Street Journal:
Investment Firms Buy Mortgage Loans -- People behind on their mortgage payments may soon find themselves owing money to investment firms.

A growing number of money managers, from BlackRock Inc. to Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, are looking to profit from buying whole residential mortgages, mainly ones where borrowers have stopped making payments.

The idea is to buy the loans at steep discounts and force payments by rejiggering the terms of the loans, or resell them for a profit. In case of a foreclosure, buyers are hoping to take control of the underlying real estate.

The growing interest in buying what are known as whole mortgage loans is a new phenomenon. Asset managers have long been happy to gain exposure to this asset class through the securitization process, where loans are repackaged into bonds. But with the securitization business at a standstill, opportunities to buy loans directly have grown.

BlackRock Chief Executive Officer Laurence Fink announced plans earlier in the year to raise $1 billion for investing in distressed residential mortgages, while Fortress Investment Group LLC officials told investors late last year that its hedge-fund side has been purchasing whole residential-loan portfolios. [...]
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A March 2005 survey released by The National Association of Realtors indicated that 23 percent of all residential real-estate transactions in the United States in 2004 went to investors, rather than to buyers looking for a place to live.
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comment: Given all the talk about inflation, don't rising prices at some point cushion the fall in housing prices. Houses after all are made of basic commodities: wood, copper, steel, cement, oil-based plastics, etc. Homes have been touted as an inflation hedge, how has that changed?
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 26, 2008

Items of interest:


The Big Picture:
Case Shiller Housing Composite Negative for 2007 -- That's gonna leave a mark: Data through December 2007 for the Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows broad based declines in the prices of existing single family homes across the United States. This marks 2007 as a full year of declining home prices.

As the chart above shows, annual returns of the national home price indices declined -8.9% versus the 4th quarter of 2006. This is the largest decline in the series' 20-year history. Comparatively, during the 1990-91 housing recession, the annual rate bottomed at -2.8%. [...]

Reuters / CNBC: US Home Prices Plunged At Record Pace Last Year
NY Times: New Data Show Rising Inflation and Slumping Home Values
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Village Voice:
Subprime Mortgage Wasteland in the Bronx -- This is what the subprime meltdown looks like: block after block of brick one and two family homes in this working class neighborhood in the northeast Bronx are for sale, in foreclosure proceedings or simply abandoned, blank doors and windows gaping like open mouths. Fifteen lis pendens — notices of foreclosure — were filed for property in Williamsbridge since February 15. There were 86 during January; 54 in December. [...]
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 25, 2008

Items of interest:

Housing crashBloomberg:
U.S. Existing Home Sales Fell to 4.89 Million Rate in January -- Sales of existing homes in the U.S. fell last month to the lowest in at least nine years, signaling the housing slump is deepening and will weigh on growth in 2008.

Resales declined 0.4 percent, less than forecast, to an annual rate of 4.89 million from a revised 4.91 million in December that was higher than previously reported, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The group began record-keeping for this measure in 1999.

Mounting foreclosures are adding to a glut of unsold homes that is driving down property values. Would-be homebuyers may be waiting for even lower prices, keeping the housing market depressed for a third year and dragging the economy close to a recession.

Housing is ``a long-term negative that's going to continue,'' Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. in New York, said before the report. ``The trends are still weak. Prices haven't come down enough.''

Economists had forecast home resales would fall 1.8 percent to an annual rate of 4.8 million, according to the median of 63 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 4.65 million to 5 million.

The number of homes for sale at the end of January rose 5.5 percent to 4.2 million. At the reported sales pace, that represents 10.3 months' supply, compared with 9.7 months in December [...]

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Harrison / MarketWatch:
Will the bond-insurer bailout work?
Commentary: Insurers are mired in their ills, but this might not be the cure -- from my perch, a respite rather than a resolution, a plan that will buy time rather than alleviate the underlying cause of stress.

It is an encapsulation of the mindset that has dominated policy since the back of the tech bubble. Give the drunk another drink with hopes he doesn't sober up. It's a conversation for another time and a different column, but the similarities stand out. In the classic tradition of Hollywood, the script has been rewritten with the characters simply recast.
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Chicago Tribune:
This House was a Steal --How fraud led to this property changing hands 3 times as son of owner sat dead inside

"The new buyers of a rundown graystone on the South Side showed up Jan. 9 to look at the house they won at a foreclosure auction. They took the plywood off the front door and went inside to make sure the utilities had been shut off. Then they called the police.

Sitting upright in the corner of a bedroom off the kitchen was a human skeleton in a red tracksuit. Next to him lay a dead dog. Neighbors told police the corpse was almost certainly Randy Johnson, a middle-age man who lived alone in the North Kenwood house.

The cause of Johnson's death has not yet been determined, but it is just one of the mysteries about 4578 S. Oakenwald Ave. Somehow, Johnson's house was transferred three times to new owners without anyone noticing he was inside. It's a story involving forged deeds, a corrupt title company and a South Side family that has been under investigation for mortgage fraud."

via TBP
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The Gray Lady has fallen and can't get up

Friday, February 22, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 22, 2008

Items of interest:

NY Times:
Rescues for Homeowners in Debt Weighed --Prodded in part by some of the nation’s biggest banks, the Bush administration and Congress are considering costly new proposals for the government to rescue hundreds of thousands of homeowners whose mortgages are higher than the value of their houses.

Not since the Depression has a larger share of Americans owed more on their homes than they are worth. With the collapse of the housing boom, nearly 8.8 million homeowners, or 10.3 percent of the total, are underwater. That is more than double the percentage just a year ago, according to a new estimate of the damage by Moody’s Economy.com. . .

related:
Housing: Underwater Isn't the Same as Negative Equity - Seeking Alpha
Moody's: 8.8 million Homeowners Underwater - CalculatedRisk
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A Perfect Storm----
Business Insurance:
U.S. life insurers’ subprime losses may hit $8B: Fitch -- U.S. life insurers’ unrealized investment losses related to subprime and other mortgage investments are in the $7 billion to $8 billion range, but the exposure is manageable, Fitch Ratings Ltd. said in a report.

Chicago-based Fitch said that the expected loss range for subprime and so-called Alt-A residential mortgage collateral represents about 13% of the insurers’ holdings and 3% of aggregate industry statutory capital. Alt-A mortgages are those that fall between prime and subprime.

Furthermore, Fitch said it expects the industry to report between $2 billion and $3 billion in realized losses on a pretax basis for the fourth quarter of 2007.

Fitch said, however, that it “continues to view the U.S. life insurance industry as well-capitalized.” [...]
related:
Fitch: Unrealized Subprime Losses For Insurers May Reach $8 Billion - WSJ
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 21, 2008

Items of interest:

Todd Harrison / Minyanville:
Random Thoughts: The Credit-Equity Rubber Band Snap:

BTIG Chief Market Strategist Mike O'Rourke: [...] These days, the credit crunch is spreading like wildfire. The private equity crowd is not the only one walking away. Banks and brokers are walking away from obligations and customers at an alarming rate. Standard Chartered is the first bank to walk away from a SIV. Previous failures to date were non-bank structures. Wealthy retail investors, who are the prized clients of banks and brokers, cannot redeem their “cash” (ARS preferred) investments. It will be some time before deep pocketed individuals will buy a product with an acronym again.

The reputational risk is enormous. Relationships which take years to cultivate are being fractured. It is a sure bet that these high net worth individuals are already in search of new brokers. There was a time in this industry when financial firms would stand behind commitments, especially to good clients, in order to protect the long term relationship even when not obligated. These days, if there is a loophole, financial firms across the board are seizing it.

Right now, this every man for himself mentality has only a slight feel of panic to it but it is worth monitoring to see if the fear builds.
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Reuters:
Economy.com sees home prices down 20 percent -- rapidly deteriorating U.S. economy will cause home prices to drop by 20 percent peak-to-trough, a leading economist said on Wednesday.

Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody's Economy.com, said he also expects a recession in the first half of this year.

Zandi, speaking at the Reuters Housing Summit in New York, said this is a "significant" change from the Moody's Economy.com outlook published in December, which called for a 13 percent drop.

He expects home sales to hit bottom this spring, housing starts to reach a nadir this summer, and house prices to trough in the spring of 2009.

"Three months ago, I expected the economy to skirt a recession. Now, I expect it to suffer a recession (in the) first half of 2008," he said. [...]
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Dealbook / NY Times:
Another Goldman Perk: Sex Changes -- Goldman Sachs bankers and traders enjoy famously big bonuses and, this year, a little extra job security thanks to their firm’s ability to steer clear of the worst effects of the subprime mortgage debacle.

Now, they can add something else to the list of reasons why life is great at Goldman: free sex-change surgery. . .
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 20, 2008

Items of interest:

NY Times:
A Towering Auction -- With bids topping $3 billion, the General Motors Building is well on its way to becoming the priciest office building in the United States.

Formal bids have been submitted for the 50-story marble tower, which overlooks New York’s Central Park, and the real-estate developer Larry A. Silverstein — possibly bidding in partnership with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System — has bid more than $3 billion, The Sun said, citing undisclosed sources. Reuters reported a similar figure, but also said that Mr. Silverstein likely offered less than the $3.5 billion that the building’s owner, the real estate magnate Harry Macklowe, is asking for. [...]

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Bespoke:
Mortgage Rates and Housing - Back in January as mortgage rates ticked lower by the day, the outlook for housing began to look better. Lower rates obviously mean lower monthly payments, giving potential home buyers more of an incentive to actually pull the trigger on a purchase. Part of the reason the Fed is cutting rates is to get mortgage rates down in order to spur buying activity and more refis in the real estate market.

Unfortunately, since mid-January, even in the face of large rate cuts by the Fed, mortgage rates have spiked sharply. As shown in the chart below, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has risen from a low of 5.25% on January 23rd to its current rate of 5.82% as of yesterday (they've ticked even higher today). [...]

30 year fixed mortgage rate-----
Bloomberg:
Wall Street Abandons Neediest Clients as Banks Withdraw Credit - A year ago $20 million would have gotten Luminent Mortgage Capital Inc. access to $640 million in loans to buy top-rated mortgage-backed securities. Now that much cash gets the firm no more than $80 million. [...]
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Rich Karlgaard / Forbes:
America's Creeping Wimpification -- Our society is aging. Credit (or blame) better medicine, healthier lifestyles and, of course, the bulge of the 80 million baby boomers. As people age, many become risk averse. Is this what's happening to America? I begin to think so. Look at Western Europe and Japan: case studies for risk aversion. Not pretty.

The world outside the U.S. is changing faster than ever, as I blogged Friday. Technological evolution and business-model change is accelerating everywhere. And at the worst time--just when the U.S. is aging.

So the impulse among a growing number of Americans is this: "I'm tired of the rat race. Let's withdraw from the world. The world is moving too fast for us. Let's just get off and rest."

This is driving economic populism.

Bill Clinton became president at 46 and by his youthful enthusiasm pulled his anti-trade party toward commercial engagement with the world. Hillary Clinton, 60, the presidential campaign's aging boomer, says the opposite. She says: "We need to take a timeout from trade."

What a switch!

If demographics determine destiny, I fear for what America is becoming. We are becoming risk-averse wimps. The only one candidate resisting this is John McCain. He may be old, but he's no wimp. McCain's a maverick--a demographic maverick. [...]

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 19, 2008

Items of interest:

The first baby boomers enter social security system
NY Times:
New $2.8 Billion Write-Down Jolts Credit Suisse -- Credit Suisse on Tuesday announced new write-downs of $2.8 billion that cut $1 billion from its profit, in a stunning reminder of the difficulty banks face in valuing complicated financial instruments under current market conditions.

The announcement came just a week after Credit Suisse earned praise from analysts for the quality of its risk management and it jolted investors. In morning trading on the Swiss Stock Exchange, the bank’s shares slid 5.1 Swiss francs, or 9 percent, to 51.65 francs, or $47.12.

In a statement, Credit Suisse said that an internal review had "resulted in the re-pricing of certain asset-backed positions in its structured credit trading business," and that the write-down — related to "significant adverse first-quarter 2008 market developments" — would reduce its net income by about $1.0 billion.

The "fair-value" reductions of the positions are estimated at about $2.85 billion, the bank said. Fair-value pricing means a financial instrument is assigned an estimated price when no market price is readily available. The market for many mortgage-backed derivatives has dried up as the United States housing market deteriorates, leaving banks uncertain about the values of many assets.

Credit Suisse said its internal review had "identified mismarkings and pricing errors by a small number of traders in certain positions in our structured credit trading business". The bank did not detail the problem. [...]

related:
Credit Suisse Writedowns to Cut Profit by $1 Billion - Bloomberg

NY Times:
Wall St. Banks Confront a String of Write-Downs -- Wall Street banks are bracing for another wave of multibillion-dollar losses as the crisis that began with subprime mortgages spreads through the credit markets.

In recent weeks one part of the debt market after another has buckled. High-risk loans used to finance corporate buyouts have plummeted in value. Securities backed by commercial real estate mortgages and student loans have fallen sharply. Even auction-rate securities, arcane investments usually considered as safe as cash, have stumbled.

The breadth and scale of the declines mean more pain for major banks, which have already written off more than $120 billion of losses stemming from bad mortgage-related investments. [...]

Globe & Mail [Canada]:
BMO to take $490-million charge -- Bank of Montreal warned Tuesday that it will take a pre-tax charge of about $490-million in the first quarter relating to various trading activities and structured finance holdings and says this will lower profit by about $325-million or 70 cents a share after tax. [...]
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 18, 2008

Items of interest:

Gretchen Morgenson / NY Times:
Arcane Market Is Next to Face Big Credit Test -- Few Americans have heard of credit default swaps, arcane financial instruments invented by Wall Street about a decade ago. But if the economy keeps slowing, credit default swaps, like subprime mortgages, may become a household term.

Credit default swaps form a large but obscure market that will be put to its first big test as a looming economic downturn strains companies’ finances. Like a homeowner’s policy that insures against a flood or fire, these instruments are intended to cover losses to banks and bondholders when companies fail to pay their debts.

The market for these securities is enormous. Since 2000, it has ballooned from $900 billion to more than $45.5 trillion — roughly twice the size of the entire United States stock market. [...]


As with other securities that trade privately and by appointment, assigning values to credit default swaps is highly subjective. So some on Wall Street wonder how much of the paper gains generated in these instruments by firms and hedge funds last year will turn out to be illusory when they try to cash them in. [...]

related:
Here comes the big one - Crooked Timber
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Alex Tabarrok / Marginal Revolution:
Was there a Housing Bubble? -- The conventional wisdom is that there was a housing bubble which has now popped. The data, however, tell a different story. Remember, that the evidence for the bubble was that real house prices had increased tremendously since around 1997 leading to prices that were far above any seen in the past one hundred years. [...]

In the shift to the new equilibrium there was some mild overshooting, especially due to the subprime over expansion, but fundamentally there was no housing bubble.
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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 15, 2008

Items of interest:

Dismal Science----
Bloomberg:
Countrywide's Overdue Mortgages Increase to 7.47% -- Countrywide Financial Corp., the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, said late loans were at their highest level in at least six years during January, adding to evidence that the U.S. housing slump is getting deeper.

Overdue loans rose to 7.47 percent of unpaid principal balances from 7.2 percent in December and 4.32 percent in January 2007, according to a Countrywide statement today. Foreclosures advanced to 1.48 percent in January, also a six- year high, from 1.44 percent in December and 0.77 percent a year earlier. [...]
related:
BBC: Sub-prime woes hit mortgage giant
Seeking Alpha: The Coming Battle Over BofA-Countrywide
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Bloomberg:
Natixis Drops After Subprime Writedowns Cut Profit -- The Paris-based company fell as much as 17 percent to 9.16 euros after saying it would write down an additional 817 million euros ($1.2 billion) related to subprime assets and 380 million euros linked to troubled U.S. bond insurers.

``We were expecting more subprime writedowns, but it was the additional exposure to the monoliners that caught the market by surprise,'' said Alain Chirlias, an analyst at Cheuvreux [...]
related:
Implode-O-Meter: Commerzbank subprime woes spoil 2007 record profit
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Bespoke:
Half Up, Half Down -- Real Estate in Q4 '07 -- For those interested, the National Association of Realtors released their Q4 '07 home price survey today. The report showed that half (73 out of 150) of the cities analyzed showed increases in year over year prices in the fourth quarter. Below we provide a table of the cities that saw the biggest gains and declines in home prices. [...]


related:
CNN Money: Home prices in steepest quarterly drop
Bloomberg: Home Prices Fall in Record 77 U.S. Metro Areas
Lasner: Bay Area home prices 17.3% off peak
Lasner: Calif. home price off 18.7%, nation’s worst
WSJ: Tracking Housing Prices Why the Numbers Conflict
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Barry Ritholtz / Seeking Alpha:
Real Retail Sales Fall to 2003 Levels -- Consumers are paying more for Food and Energy, to the point that Real Retail sales are negative. What does this say about future discretionary retail spending?
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Housing/Subprime Roundup — Feb. 14, 2008

Items of interest:

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Eliot Spitzer, governor of New Yawk / Washington Post:
Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime -- How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers

Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive "teaser" rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.

Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. [....]
blogging stocks:
Spitzer says bond insurance problem could be 'financial tsunami'
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Wall Street Journal:
Debt Crisis Hits a Dynasty -- Billionaire Mahers Rack Up Losses In 'Auction' Bonds

When M. Brian and Basil Maher sold their family's shipping business last July for more than $1 billion, they quickly put the money in a safe place.

Or so they thought.

The two brothers handed much of it to Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. with marching orders to make only the most conservative, cashlike investments. Within weeks, however, they had lost access to more than a quarter-billion dollars. [...]
related:
The Hidden Costs of The Auction Failures - DealBreaker
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Reuters:
Market stays lower on Bernanke testimony -- Stocks stayed moderately lower on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank will act as needed to help the struggling economy.

Bernanke said in prepared testimony to a Senate committee the outlook for the economy had worsened in recent months and that downside risks to growth have increased. [...]
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Recession Underway, Jobs Lost, Unemployment Rising

...among the New York Times newsroom staff, that is. [via JawaReport]
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Stimulus Check----

Daryl Cagle's blog:
Oh! The mail on my cartoon -- ... You are a racist, just because we are conservative and not agree with you, you make us into Monkeys????

What's wrong with you, where is your open mind, where is your compasion and caring for others?
. . .

I wouldn't say the conservative character in my cartoon is a "monkey" - I'd say he is "evolutionally challenged." --Daryl
comment: Conservatives constitute their own race?

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