Breakingviews

Mortgage freeze could hasten Greek bank reform

January 28, 2015

Before Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gets any euro zone deal on Greece’s public debt, he could make good on his promise of a permanent mortgage moratorium. That would inflict pain on the country’s banks – but ultimately force them to restructure.

Remember the UK housing bubble?

November 26, 2014

Not long ago an overheating housing market was seen by many as the big UK danger. Now mortgage approvals are dropping and house inflation is easing – even though mortgages are getting cheaper. Tighter home-loan regulation is a factor. Workers’ low earnings are the main restraint.

London real estate at an inflection point

July 17, 2014

Property values in the UK capital are up 20 pct in a year. But leading indicators – buyer enquiries, new mortgages and volumes – have stalled. For prices to hold, foreign buyers will have to spend more in spite of a stronger pound and punitive taxation.

Blunt instrument is needed for global house bubble

June 16, 2014

The IMF is worried about the risk of a global house price bubble. Housing markets may be regional, but low supply and excess demand are common worldwide. Macroprudential tools and construction are part of the response. But anything other than an end to cheap money is tinkering.

U.S. housing has added problem: mortgage insurance

October 28, 2011

Many legislators want the government out of housing. Fair enough. But a look at the private business of mortgage insurance serves as a reminder that the private sector also needs an overhaul. Former highflier PMI’s takeover by regulators last week is a case in point.

Crisis anniversary marked with much dead wood

November 8, 2011

Five years ago today, Meritage became the first notable subprime mortgage lender to fail. Too few heeded this canary in the coal mine. Now, while there are some signs of progress, the mortgage market remains moribund. It’s worth a look back - and forward.

Fan/Fred mortgage forgiveness would be weak potion

December 29, 2011

After resisting the idea for years, the regulator of the U.S. home loan giants is humoring a new policy effectively reducing principal on loans. The plan could slow the enterprises’ near-term losses, but would prolong their agony and do little to heal the housing market.

Alluring subprime debt can still poison investors

January 19, 2012

Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and other banks reckon there’s life yet in the mortgage market’s toxic waste. Double-digit yields, after all, are hard to ignore. But subprime sludge still has the ability to slip buyers up. Investors should tread carefully.

Renters need to flex muscle in U.S. housing debate

February 8, 2012

Though America’s mortgage system subsidizes homebuyers, its dysfunction has cost all taxpayers dearly. Few groups are pushing for change. But the nation’s 39 mln renters - often an afterthought in the discussion - ought to be up in arms. They might find unlikely allies, too.

Citi, BofA prove too big to punish harshly

February 17, 2012

The banks will pay fines - $158 mln and $1 bln respectively - to settle claims they defrauded Uncle Sam through mortgage insurance. Citi even admitted it. Its awful quality control lapses make a ban on government business seem in order. But Washington needs big banks too much.