Randy's Corner Deli Library

05 September 2008

New Foreclosures Reach 30 Year High Today

View from the booth:

Let us keep the eye on the issues: the economy is in the tank, our foreign policy is a joke, Iraq has an $80 billion surplus yet the US continues to spend money on...what was that again? Meanwhile armed forces members' suicides are likewise up to record numbers. Let me see, the Republicans hollered "change" all week (except Monday, due to Hurricane Gustav). They want to replace the party that has put this country into the shape it's in with....the SAME party?! That's change? Right. The next eight weeks are going to be painful. Keep your eyes and minds on real issues like record foreclosure numbers, not the hilarity of the nomination of Sarah Palin.

Randy Shiner

U.S. Mortgage Foreclosures, Delinquencies Reach Highs (Update3)

By Kathleen M. Howley

Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Foreclosures accelerated to the fastest pace in almost three decades during the second quarter as interest rates increased and home values fell, prompting more Americans to walk away from homes they couldn't refinance or sell.

New foreclosures increased to 1.19 percent, rising above 1 percent for the first time in the survey's 29 years, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report today. The total inventory of homes in foreclosure reached 2.75 percent, almost tripling since the five-year housing boom ended in 2005. The share of loans with one or more payments overdue rose to a seasonally adjusted 6.41 percent of all mortgages, an all-time high, from 6.35 percent in the first quarter.

Tumbling home prices are making it difficult for even the most creditworthy owners with adjustable-rate mortgages to sell or get a new loan as their financing costs rise, said Jay Brinkmann, MBA's chief economist. Prime ARMs accounted for 23 percent of new foreclosures and subprime ARMs were 36 percent, he said.

``People chose the lowest payment option to get into some of the very expensive housing markets and now that prices are coming way down, they can't sell and they can't afford the higher payments,'' Brinkmann said in an interview. The unadjusted rate for new foreclosures was 1.08 percent, also a record, he said.

The three-year-old housing slump has slowed growth of the world's largest economy, caused more than half a trillion dollars of losses at banks such as Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG, and crimped earnings for companies such as Home Depot Inc. and Lowe's Cos. that rely on home purchases to fuel demand.

Economic Growth

The drop in home sales and values, along with tighter credit conditions and higher energy costs, probably will ``weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters,'' Federal Reserve policy makers said Aug. 5 when they decided to hold their benchmark rate at 2 percent. The central bankers cut the rate seven times in the last year in an attempt to avert a U.S. recession.

The Fed probably will keep the rate level for the next few months, according to the price of Fed funds futures. There's an 81 percent chance of no change at the Sept. 16 meeting and a 75 percent chance of no action at the Oct. 29 meeting, they indicate.

Foreclosures started on prime mortgages rose to 0.67 percent from 0.54 percent and the foreclosure inventory increased to 1.42 percent from 1.22 percent, the report said. The share of seriously delinquent prime mortgages was 2.35 percent, up from 1.99 percent.

Prime Mortgages

The share of new foreclosures on prime ARMs was 1.82 percent, triple the 0.58 percent in the year-earlier quarter, and the total foreclosure inventory was 4.33 percent, up from 1.29 percent, the report said. The share of seriously delinquent prime ARMs was 6.78 percent, rising from 2.02 percent a year ago.

New foreclosures on subprime loans rose to 4.7 percent from 4.06 percent in the first quarter, according to the report. The total foreclosure inventory increased to 11.81 percent from 10.74 percent and the so-called seriously delinquent share of loans that are 90 days or more overdue rose to 17.85 from 16.42 percent.

The bankers' report cites percentages without providing the number of mortgages. The U.S. had $10.6 trillion of outstanding home loans at the end of March, according to a June 5 report by the Federal Reserve. Mortgage lending fell to $320.9 billion in the first quarter, down from $782.6 billion a year earlier, the Fed report said.

Existing home sales fell to a 10-year low in the second quarter and the median price for a single-family house dropped 7.6 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors in Chicago.

Market Bottom

Tumbling prices and foreclosure sales by banks may be helping to form a bottom for the housing market, said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts.

``People who have been waiting on the sidelines -- and there have been quite a number of them -- are starting to see prices come down to the point where they perceive good value,'' Bethune said in an interview. ``Foreclosures do provide opportunities and induce some people to come back into the market.''

Sales of previously owned homes rose 3.1 percent in July to an annualized pace of 5 million, boosted by foreclosures that accounted for about a third of all transactions, the National Association of Realtors said in an Aug. 25 report.

The Mortgage Bankers report is based on a survey of 45.4 million loans by mortgage companies, commercial banks, thrifts, credit unions and other financial institutions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen M. Howley in Boston at kmhowley@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: September 5, 2008 14:45 EDT

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