Pending housing recovery

May 30, 2012

More than five years into an unprecedented slump, the U.S. housing sector continues to languish. Pending home sales fell in April to a four-month low, while house prices continue to bounce along near recent lows. The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday its index, based on contracts signed last month, fell 5.5 percent to 95.5, its lowest level since December, after a downwardly revised 3.8 percent increase in March. The weakness suggested other more closely watched indicators may also flag in coming weeks and months.

U.S. housing slump: Six years and counting

April 17, 2012

Just as Americans begin to regain some hope that the housing sector might be on the mend, we get another batch of data showing the sector’s not quite there yet.

Housing healing

April 9, 2012

More than six years after its spectacular collapse, the U.S. housing market – the laggard of the struggling economic recovery – may be poised for pickup, driven in part by an upswing in remodeling, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch economist Michelle Meyer thinks.

from Lawrence Summers:

It’s too soon to return to normal policies

By Lawrence Summers
March 26, 2012

Economic forecasters divide into two groups: those who cannot know the future but think they can, and those who recognize their inability to know the future. Shifts in the economy are rarely forecast and often not fully recognized until they have been under way for some time. So judgments about the U.S. economy have to be tentative. What can be said is that for the first time in five years a resumption of growth significantly above the economy's potential now appears as a substantial possibility. Put differently, after years when the risks to the consensus modest-growth forecast were to the downside, they are now very much two-sided.

Lenders still overvaluing properties, Fed study finds

March 15, 2012

The Fed calls it an “apparent misunderstanding.” Whatever term you prefer, a new Cleveland Fed study makes one thing clear: lenders are still overstating home values. The study focuses on real-estate-owned or REO inventory, which covers properties that are now owned by lenders.

Distress signals from U.S. housing

February 23, 2012

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There was something for everyone in the January existing home sales report. Bulls could point to the level of sales, which reached a 1-1/2 year high, and the decline in housing supply, long an impediment to the sector’s recovery. Bears might focus on the sharp downward revisions to prior months that suggested conditions were improving but from considerably more depressed levels.

In Bernanke’s schedule, a hint of housing-linked QE3

February 2, 2012

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has made clear the central bank is considering another round of monetary stimulus. Fed officials have also suggested that if they were to embark on a third round of quantitative easing via bond purchases, or QE3, they could favor mortgage-backed securities in an effort to boost housing.

Two cheers for financial innovation

January 7, 2012

Protests against Wall Street and the U.S. financial system are hanging over an annual gathering of economists and social scientists in Chicago. Yale economist Robert Shiller offered two cheers for capitalist finance, saying that while the U.S. free market system has contributed to higher living standards, the vehemence of the recent public outcry points to a need for greater democratization. This is how he put it in a speech:

Conflicting signals for U.S. economy

December 27, 2011

As 2011 draws to an unspectacular close, U.S. economic data are sending thoroughly mixed messages about the near-term path of the recovery. That’s not particularly reassuring given the still enormous risks emanating from Europe – but it’s better than the unequivocal weakness that prevailed during the first half of the year.

Making sense of bounce in U.S. housing starts

December 20, 2011

Surprise! There’s some life in housing after all. U.S. construction starts and building permits jumped to a 1-1/2 year high in November as demand for rental apartments rose, suggesting a downtrodden housing market may be entering a tentative recovery. But will this be another in a long string of bottom-bounces? Or is it the start of a trend