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May 29, 2009

US housing market still boarded up

The American markets continue to ignore the ever widening black hole in housing.

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The American markets continue to ignore the ever-widening black hole in housing.

Despite all the figures showing an apparent slowing in the fall of new home starts and steadying sales of new and existing houses, both are still more than 30% under what they were a year ago and prices are down 20% in the past year. There’s an estimated $US4 trillion more of over valuation in house prices to be eliminated, while according to some analysts, and foreclosures and arrears are soaring.

According to a report released in the US overnight, around 25% of all subprime mortgages, which started the whole mess, have defaulted and failure rates in other mortgage classes are rising worryingly, without any sign of steadying.

But there was a surge in the proportion of loans going bad, while prime loans are worsening. Prime fixed-rate home loans to borrowers with the highest credit rating accounted for the biggest share of new foreclosures at 29%.

According to the MBA delinquency survey, “the combined percentage of loans in foreclosure and at least one payment past due, meaning the percentage of mortgage holders not current on their mortgages, was 12.07 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the highest ever recorded.”

That means one in 8 mortgages is now troubled to the point where it would be close to going under.

In Australia its roughly 1-in-20: at December 2008 non performing mortgage were 0.48% of all on balance sheet bank home loans in Australia, against the US figure of 12.07%.

And, despite all the hand-wringing and attempts by the US Government, the Fed, banks and Congress to try and ‘do something’ the foreclosure plague is spreading across the US. The March quarter saw the number of foreclosure actions started hit a record high, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association report.

US commentators have been calling a ‘bottom’; now for months every time there’s a steadying or slowing in the rate of fall in new or existing home sales or new home starts. Overnight new home sales rose slightly in April from March, but were still down 34% on a year and 70% on the peak a couple of years ago. Earlier in the week sales of existing homes rose 2.9% in April from March, and that was greeted as ‘good news’

And then the Case Schiller Home Price Index showed a house prices fell a record 19% fall across the entire US in the March quarter, (from the March quarter of 2008) and 2.2% in March alone from February.

The surge in 10 year bond yields (which eased a touch to around 3.67% overnight from 3.71% the day before) has boosted mortgage rates and caused a big fall in mortgage applications.

And it will worsen the lot of people struggling to keep their homes and mortgages above water.

What the Case Schiller Index (which is the most accurate of all measures of US home prices) shows that each month (and for the past 32 months) more Americans are seeing the value of their houses sink under the amount owed on the mortgage.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported the largest quarter-over-quarter increase in foreclosure starts since it began keeping records in 1972. Lenders initiated foreclosures on 1.37% of all first mortgages during the quarter, a 27% increase from the 1.08% rate during the last three months of 2008 and a 36% rise from the first quarter of 2008. In all, more than 616,000 US mortgages were hit with foreclosure actions.

Delinquencies, the stage in which borrowers have fallen behind on payments but have not yet received foreclosure notices, also hit record highs, with the seasonally adjusted rate at 9.12% of all loans, up from 7.88% last quarter.

And here’s the really worrying part of the survey: there is absolutely no sign of any improvement in sight.

US home prices are now back 2002 levels and still falling. Is this the ultimate ‘deleveraging’ that commentators and analysts are calling for back to the 90s anyone?

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One thought on “US housing market still boarded up

  1. John Molloy

    In Australia its roughly 1-in-20: at December 2008 non performing mortgage were 0.48% of all on balance sheet bank home loans in Australia, against the US figure of 12.07%.

    That 1 in 20 worried me for a second until I realised 0.48% is 1 in 208.

    John the maths pedant.

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