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Retailers, consumers and prices

from MacroScope:

Housing “W”hipsaw looms

After months of cheerier data, the housing market is set for another tumble, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, California. The consultants, who provide advice for builders, developers and banks, are calling for a "W"-shaped recovery, marked first by the plunge that Americans living off of home equity would rather forget.

America has breathed a sigh of relief since April, as the summer selling season kicked in and the $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit nudged consumers off the fence into the most affordable market in years. These factors, along with easy financing from the Federal Housing Administration, was the first leg up for the "W," said Lisa Marquis Jackson, a vice president at John Burns.

The onset of the weaker selling months, a building pipeline of foreclosures and expiration of the tax-credit on Nov. 30 will likely bring rising prices upturn to a halt, creating a "false peak" and fresh downturn, the group says. Federal efforts have slowed foreclosures but have not addressed many issues including unemployment and underwater mortgages, leaving a heavy "shadow inventory" set to knock prices to fresh lows.

An extension to the first-time homebuyer credit -- bandied about by the Obama administration -- may soften, but not prevent another leg down, the John Burns group said.

"We anticipate that foreclosure activity will remain very high at least through 2012, with the majority of future foreclosures coming as a result of job losses," John Burns, president of the group, said in an outlook.