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Job declines slow, but unemployment rate jumps


The Labor Department’s August report on the jobs market has a bit of a good news/bad news slant to it. Job cuts slowed to “just” 216K, below expectations and better than last month’s 276K (up from the originally reproted 247K). But the unemployment rate, which is calculated through a distinct survey of households rather than businesses, jumped to 9.7% from 9.4% the previous month. You’ll remember that a slide back in July made some hopeful that maybe, just maybe, joblessness has stabilized.

Still, the market doesn’t seem to be too worried, at least for the moment as Treasury yields head north. The benchmark 10-Yr note has inched up about 2BPs to 3.39% since the report hit the wires.

The take away, however, continues to be that job losses are still outsized and likely will keep consumption and housing from recovering in a meaningful way.

Where the job seekers aren’t


Even in weak employment markets, the United States has typically had a trump card to play. The nation’s workers are legendary for their willingness to travel across the country for new opportunities.

The result has been a speedier recovery of job growth than in Europe and possibly a higher productivity rate, since skilled workers are better matched to openings.

The subprime to prime mortgage handoff


Data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association confirms the trend that prime borrowers are the ones to worry about.

While the percentage of mortgages entering the foreclosure process in the 2Q held relatively steady at 1.36%, the change in composition is noteworthy.

The government’s foreclosure flop


The Obama administration has attacked the problem of rising home foreclosures with a humanitarian zeal. Their program — the most ambitious in generations — was intended to save up to four million people from being thrown out of their homes.

A few months on, this $75 billion policy has been a humiliating flop. Only about 270,000 mortgages have been modified since the scheme was announced in February, according to government figures, and if past experience is anything to go by, half of those could be delinquent again within six months.

from Neil Unmack:

UK mortgage debt: remain calm! All is well!

That's the message given by Moody's today on the resilience of UK mortgage-backed securities to the current downturn. The survey is based on so-called master trusts, a kind of securitization vehicle first applied to U.K. mortgages about a decade ago which quickly became the most efficient way for a large bank to securitize home loans. The master trusts grew so big that they now finance about a fifth of all UK home loans (although a large chunk of this must have been from deals issued by banks after the credit crisis to use as collateral for borrowing with the central banks).

Master trust bonds haven't been immune to the credit crisis. Forced selling by SIVs and funds caused yields on AAA master trust securities to gap out sharply from their low of around a tenth of a percentage point over Libor. Spreads have rallied in recent months, but they are still around 2 percentage points over Libor, largely because many asset managers simply won't touch illiquid asset-backed debt, even if the returns are much higher than equivalent corporate bonds. 

Bubble, bubble toil and trouble


NEW YORK, July 29 (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve seems to be volunteering to be top bubble burster. In a recent speech, Bill Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, overturned more than a decade of Fed orthodoxy by claiming it was the central bank’s duty to defuse asset price bombs before they detonate.

As the United States struggles with the fallout from the bursting of the housing and credit bubbles, the Fed may win applause for being proactive. By the time the next one starts to inflate, however, Fed officials may regret they raised their hand. Doing the job properly will certainly make them unpopular and there is no guarantee that it will even work.

Reaching a floor in housing


– Christopher Swann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

By Christopher Swann

NEW YORK, July 27 (Reuters) – Nestled in today’s otherwise heady home sales figures was a sobering message on prices. Homes were still fetching close to six percent less in June than they did just a month before, and 12 percent less than a year ago.

L-shaped housing market?


Economists seem willing to celebrate even the most tepid economic release these days. The National Association of Homebuilders’ Housing Market Index nudged up slightly to 17 in July, up from 15. Most economists had expected 16, so this is what passes for good news.

But the improvement is tepid indeed considering the record lows the index has hit. Even most dead cats bounce more vigorously than this.

Housing bumps along the bottom



New home sales data shows that it’s going to be a long slog pulling the U.S. housing market out of the doldrums. Not only was the sales rate at 342K below consensus but the backlog of unsold inventories continues to be a drag. And a weak jobs market certainly isn’t going to help move those homes any faster even with home prices falling.

Home inventories stood at 10.2 months. True this is down from the 10.4 months in April, but as MFR Inc.  economist Josh Shapiro notes, it’s still a long way from a normal 6 months.