David Kirkpatrick

August 29, 2010

The housing market continues to suffer

And the White House is prepping to announce new initiatives to keep homeowners in their houses and forestall a new spate of foreclosures. The real-world effects of this recession are still ongoing, regardless what direction any economic indicators may point, and the help Main Street is getting from DC feels like a trickle here, a trickle there. So much for the “summer of recovery.”

From the link:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan revealed to CNN Friday that the Obama administration plans next week to unveil two new initiatives to deal with the crumbling housing market, and he left the door open to also reviving the expired $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers that had been propping up the industry.

“We’re going to be rolling out an FHA refinancing effort to help borrowers who are under water in their homes get above water,” Donovan said in an exclusive interview taped for CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley” on Sunday. “And second, we’re launching an emergency homeowners’ loan program for unemployed borrowers to be able to stay in their homes.”

The swift action being pushed by President Obama’s housing chief come in response to awful news in the housing industry this week, starting with Tuesday’s revelation that existing home sales hit their lowest level in over a decade, declining by over 27 percent during the month.

Update: this comes from today’s Playbook — brunch edition:

An administration official e-mails: “These are not new. He said ‘launching’ because they are previously introduced, but have not yet hit the market. The FHA short refi program was announced in March, and will launch in early September. The emergency homeowner emergency loan program, which was included in the Frank-Dodd bill (HUD put out in a release and conf. call two weeks ago), will be launched in October.”

April 16, 2010

SEC hits Goldman Sachs with fraud

I blogged on this very topic back in late December, and now the SEC is cracking down hard. As one  financial industry insider quoted in the second link says, “This is big.”

From the second link:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc was charged with fraud on Friday by U.S. securities regulators in the structuring and marketing of a debt product tied to subprime mortgages.

The Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit alleges that Paulson & Co, a major hedge fund run by the billionaire John Paulson, worked with Goldman in creating the collateralized debt obligation, and stood to benefit as its value fell, costing investors more than $1 billion.

Fabrice Tourre, a Goldman vice president who the SEC said was principally responsible for creating the product, was also charged with fraud.

Paulson has not been charged. “Goldman made the representations here to the investors, Paulson did not,” SEC enforcement chief Robert Khuzami said on a conference call.

Goldman said in a press release that the SEC’s charges are completely unfounded in law and fact and it will vigorously contest them.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, marks a dramatic expansion of regulatory efforts to hold people and companies responsible for activity that contributed to the nation’s financial crises. It also comes as lawmakers in Washington debate sweeping reform of financial industry regulation.

March 24, 2010

White House foreclosure plan under watchdog fire

And seems to be for very good reason — the program just didn’t even come close to delivering on alleviating Main Street pain, and to make matters worse for homeowners in need of relief the Treasury Department still claims offering to help with a troubled mortgage counts as a success. Yes, the government is trying to say starting the process is just the same as actually following through and helping someone stay in their home. What a mess.

From the link:

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said the Treasury Department set targets that weren’t “meaningful,” mismanaged the implementation of the program, and now risks a substantial number of “re-defaults,” with many participants ultimately losing their homes anyway.

The administration’s $75 billion loan modification program may help as little as 1.5 to 2 million people, about half the number Obama said it would when he first unveiled the program in February 2009, the inspector general, Neil Barofsky, wrote in a report.

Recently, Treasury Department officials have come under fire for saying the initial goal applied only to offering trial modifications, as opposed to permanent help.

“Continuing to frame HAMP’s success around the number of “offers” extended is simply not sufficient,” Barofsky wrote, referring to the Home Affordable Modification Program.

December 13, 2009

Banks v. homeowners

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:56 pm

I’ve already blogged about what banks are doing to small business, and the overall economy as a result. Here’s more of the same tight-fisted lending practices (with those tight fists wrapped around taxpayer’s money via the various bailouts) geared toward homeowners looking to refinance during this time of ultra low interest rates courtesy of the government.

From the second link:

Mortgage rates in the United States have dropped to their lowest levels since the 1940s, thanks to a trillion-dollar intervention by the federal government. Yet the banks that once handed out home loans freely are imposing such stringent requirements that many homeowners who might want to refinance are effectively locked out.

The scarcity of credit not only hurts homeowners but also has broad economic repercussions at a time when consumer spending and employment are showing modest signs of improvement, hinting at a recovery after two years of recession.

September 22, 2009

The next shoe? Option ARM mortgages

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:42 pm

I’ll have to admit, this is one mortgage vehicle I’ve never heard of, and it sounds pretty bad. I thought I was ahead of the curve 0n commercial paper, but clearly the insanity at all levels of real estate are going to reverberate for quite some time.

From the first link:

The federal government and states are girding themselves for the next foreclosure crisis in the country’s housing downturn: payment option adjustable rate mortgages that are beginning to reset.

“Payment option ARMs are about to explode,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said after a Thursday meeting with members of President Barack Obama‘s administration to discuss ways to combat mortgage scams.

“That’s the next round of potential foreclosures in our country,” he said.

Option-ARMs are now considered among the riskiest offered during the recent housing boom and have left many borrowers owing more than their homes are worth. These “underwater” mortgages have been a driving force behind rising defaults and mounting foreclosures.

In Arizona, 128,000 of those mortgages will reset over the the next year and many have started to adjust this month, the state’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, told Reuters after the meeting.

“It’s the other shoe,” he said. “I can’t say it’s waiting to drop. It’s dropping now.”

August 6, 2009

More bad news looming for housing

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:43 pm

Ouch.

From the link:

The percentage of U.S. homeowners who owe more than their house is worth will nearly double to 48 percent in 2011 from 26 percent at the end of March, portending another blow to the housing market, Deutsche Bank said on Wednesday.Home price declines will have their biggest impact on prime “conforming” loans that meet underwriting and size guidelines of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bank said in a report. Prime conforming loans make up two-thirds of mortgages, and are typically less risky because of stringent requirements.

“We project the next phase of the housing decline will have a far greater impact on prime borrowers,” Deutsche analysts Karen Weaver and Ying Shen said in the report.

January 9, 2009

No Fannie or Freddie foreclosures for the month

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:47 pm

Good news for people in trouble with mortgages through these two.

From the link:

The government-controlled home loan giants said the extension will allow borrowers facing foreclosure to keep their homes as it works with mortgage servicers to find options for troubled mortgage holders under the Streamlined Modification Program.

Freddie and Fannie began the modification program in December, aiming to create more affordable mortgage payments for borrowers at risk of foreclosure. The program applies to borrowers who have missed three payments or more, own and occupy their homes, and have not filed for bankruptcy.

Under the program, borrowers can reduce their interest rate, extend the life of the loan or defer payments on part of the principal.

The extended hiatus on foreclosures will give Fannie more time to launch a new policy that will allow renters in company-owned foreclosed properties to stay in their homes, Fannie said in a news release. Details of the new policy have not been announced.

December 18, 2008

The Fed’s toolbox …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:57 pm

isn’t totally empty, even though the overnight funds rate is now effectively zero. Of course, we can always just the printing presses running 24/7 at the mint. (Before I get it from other fiscal conservatives, just kidding there on the last one.)

From the link:

When the Federal Reserve reduced its target for the federal funds rate to virtually zero this week, it appeared to have run out of room to attempt any further monetary stimulus for the economy.

That’s not really the case, and it is why the Fed statement stressed the wide-ranging open market operations it will use to inject money into the economy and drive down interest rates along the entire interest-rate curve, not just at the short end. The Fed will directly buy mortgages to flood that market with much-needed liquidity, and it will buy long-term Treasury bonds to drive down yields.

But just as the absence of interbank lending has rendered the federal funds target fairly useless as a tool, so too has it robbed central bank money of much of its impact, because there is no multiplier effect. That whole credit mechanism is broken for the time being, which means central bank money is going into the economy directly, without the amplification of bank lending on the basis of fractional reserves.

November 19, 2008

Congress wants bailout answers …

… and Paulson is taking the heat. Rightfully so. This whole thing is a disgrace.

I was against it from the get-go, and now that it’s a done deal Paulson and the Treasury Department seem to be no better than a room full of drunk monkeys in handling the process. I wouldn’t let Paulson manage my sock drawer at this point.

From the link:

Members of the House Financial Services Committee grilled Paulson for not doing enough to help distressed homeowners and for failing to force banks that get some of the bailout money to specifically use it to bolster lending to customers, one of the prime reasons behind the rescue package.

“It is essential” that some of the bailout money be used to ease foreclosures, said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a key player in shaping the package that Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law Oct. 3.

Amid fits and starts in the administration’s rollout and direction of the program, “I have to say at this point that public confidence in what we have done so far is lower than anybody would want it to be, to the point where it could be an obstacle to further steps,” Frank lamented.

In a break with the administration, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, made a fresh pitch for using $24 billion of the bailout pool to help Americans at risk of losing their homes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging Paulson to support the FDIC plan.

“As foreclosures escalate, we are clearly falling behind the curve,” Bair warned the panel. “Much more aggressive intervention is needed if we are to curb the damage to our neighborhoods and broader economic health.”