Reuters blog archive
from Data Dive:
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:
"For the year as a whole, it's a good recovery," National Association of Realtors' economist Lawrence Yun told Reuters. "We lost some momentum toward the end of 2013." Reuters has more details on the new home sales this morning:
The second straight month of declines in sales was likely payback after October's outsized 14.9 percent increase and may have reflected some drag from cold weather that blanketed most parts of the country last month.
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:
“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:
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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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
What is most striking about the latest round, at least when you listen to those who ought to know, is how nothing much except the price has changed.
Although UK house prices will head steadily higher in the next two years, analysts polled by Reuters are divided over whether the Bank of England can restrain the market if it overheats. Here's what they said in the latest Reuters poll, taken this week: How confident are you in the BoE's ability to moderate the housing market if necessary?
PETER DIXON, COMMERZBANK: "Not very. A cynical interpretation would be that the government wants to see a decent rise in house prices over the next couple of years and would not be best pleased to see the BoE take the steam out of it. Nor is it clear that the BoE has the policy instruments to target the housing market without causing collateral damage elsewhere in the economy. Finally, it would call into question the thrust of policy if Help to Buy is giving to the housing market with one hand whilst the BoE is taking away with another."