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from Data Dive:

Case-Shiller Index shows modest growth in home prices

The housing recovery continues, albeit modestly. The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of house prices in 20 metro areas rose 0.8% in January (seasonally adjusted), according to a report released yesterday. Economists had predicted an 0.7% rise. On an year-to-year basis, home prices are 13.2% higher than they were in January 2013.

It's not all good news, though. Unadjusted prices actually fell by 0.1% from December to January, according to ReutersBill McBride sees signs of a slowdown in housing prices coming:

I've been hearing reports of a slowdown in house price increases (more than the usual seasonal slowdown), and perhaps this slowdown in price increases is finally showing up in the Case-Shiller index. This makes sense since inventory is starting to increase.

According to Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko, asking price increases have slowed down recently, and Kolko expects that price slowdown will "hit Feb sales prices and get reported in April index releases".

from Breakingviews:

Berlin’s housing boom has lessons for London

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By Olaf Storbeck

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Berlin is becoming a bit more Londonesque. While the buses in Germany’s capital are still yellow, not red, and the locals remain grumpy, the behaviour of housing prices has a British accent. According to property website ImmoWelt.de, asking prices for one-bedroom flats have risen 53 percent in three years. The Bundesbank has warned that property prices are roughly a quarter higher than fundamentals justify. But Berlin’s boom is much less likely to last than London’s.

from Data Dive:

The US housing market’s disappointing end to 2013

Who wants to buy a new house when the weather is terrible? According to new data released last week, new home sales were down by 7% in December -- partially due to bad weather. However, resales of existing homes were up by 1%, according to the National Association of Realtors. Total sales for 2013 were the strongest they have been since 2006, according to Reuters. Here's an overall view of the housing market: 

The dip in new home sales was likely affected by frigid temperatures in the Northeast, according to Reuters. Here's what just new home sales looks like: 

from MacroScope:

The Bank of Canada is probably not ready to seriously consider cutting rates — yet

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With all signs showing the Canadian economic miracle is fading, the Bank of Canada is understandably starting to sound more dovish. The Canadian dollar has got a whiff of that, down about 10 percent from where it was this time last year.

But that doesn't mean Governor Stephen Poloz is ready to signal on Wednesday that his rate shears are about to get hauled out of the shed.

from Felix Salmon:

Why banks aren’t lending to homebuyers

“Despite the confluence of promising signs,” write Peter Eavis and Jessica Silver-Greenberg today, "little in the vast system that provides Americans with mortgages has returned to normal since the 2008 financial crisis, leaving a large swath of people virtually shut out of the market.”

This is absolutely true, and it’s a significant problem. To get a feel for just how sluggish the mortgage market is, my favorite chart comes from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Every month, the MBA releases its Mortgage Credit Availability Index, which makes it easy to concentrate on minuscule differences: in December, for instance, the index rose to 100.9, from 110.2 in November. But in order to see the big picture you need to zoom out and look at what credit availability was like before the financial crisis. And if you do that, the chart looks something like this:

from Counterparties:

Renters get owned

Welcome to the Counterparties email. The sign-up page is here, it’s just a matter of checking a box if you’re already registered on the Reuters website. Send suggestions, story tips and complaints to Counterparties.Reuters@gmail.com.

In 2012, the federal government spent $240 billion on housing aid, according to a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Despite the fact that 65% of American households are homeowners, 75% of housing aid, or $180 billion, is set aside for homeowners. Not only is federal housing aid disproportionately targeted to homeowners, it’s disproportionately targeted to the wealthiest homeowners. Here’s the CBPP:

from MacroScope:

Banking disunion

The full Ecofin of 28 EU finance ministers meets after Monday’s Eurogroup meeting of euro zone representatives didn’t seem to get far in unpicking the Gordian Knot that is banking union. Ireland’s Michael Noonan talked of “wide differences”.

The ministers are seeking to create an agency to close euro zone banks and a fund to pay for the clean-up - completing a new system to police banks and prevent a repeat of the bloc’s debt crisis.

from Felix Salmon:

America’s rental crisis

Earlier today, a union organizer from Oakland named Max Bell Alper successfully (if briefly) trolled the internet with a stunt showing him shouting at a protestor. The protest was against Google’s buses: they use municipal infrastructure, but don't giving anything back in return. Alper’s monologue, delivered in character as an obnoxious Google employee, went like this:

I can pay my rent. Can you pay your rent? … Well then, you know what? Why don’t you go to a city where you can afford it? This is a city for the right people. Who can afford it. If you can’t afford it, it’s time for you to leave. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s time for you to leave. If you can’t pay your rent, I’m sorry. Get a better job.

from The Great Debate:

Correcting three myths about the housing market

The U.S. Senate should move quickly to confirm Mel Watt as the new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), but not for any of the political or procedural reasons usually discussed. A quick confirmation is required because we need new leadership on U.S. housing policy -- a policy that on some crucial points is headed in the wrong direction for the wrong reasons.

In the years since the collapse of the housing bubble, major Wall Street firms have prospered while millions of homeowners are still dealing with the wreckage of a damaged housing market. That’s in part because nothing as large as a national housing market turns quickly. But it’s also because persistent myths about the market are obscuring the data and driving policy in the wrong direction.

from Breakingviews:

UK budget must deliver homes not bubbles

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By Ian Campbell

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

George Osborne has something to boast about during his budget update on Dec. 5. UK growth is up and the deficit is down. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has engineered an all-too-British recovery, in which house-price inflation will soon be too prominent. A radical policy shift is needed to build a genuinely sustainable revival.

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