Unstructured Finance

Will FHFA opposition to principal reductions boost eminent domain efforts?

By Matthew Goldstein and Jennifer Ablan

There’s nothing surprising about FHFA head Ed DeMarco’s decision to nix the idea of writing down some of the debt owed by cash-strapped homeowners on mortgages guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie. DeMarco, whose agency regulates Fannie and Freddie, has been a consistent opponent of principal reductions–something we pointed out last October in our story on the need for a “great haircut” on consumer loans and including student and mortgage debt to stimulate the economy.

But DeMarco’s renewed opposition comes at a time that there is a growing consensus that something needs to be done on the housing front to get the U.S. economy going, as opposed to simply churning along at the current anemic rate of growth. More and more economists are saying that reducing mortgage debt will not only reduce foreclosures, it will give ordinary Americans more money to spend on goods and services.

It doesn’t take an MBA from Harvard to know that when people have spending power it translates into more demand and that usually prompts employers to hire more people to fill that demand.

DeMarco’s opposition also comes at a time that some local government officials in communities hit hardest by the housing crisis are toying with ideas that once seemed too controversial to imagine. We’re, of course, talking about the idea of using eminent domain to seize and restructure underwater mortgages–something we first reported on in early June. (Sorry, Matt Taibbi, we had the story first).

Mortgage Resolution Partners, the investment firm that is pushing the idea of eminent domain as a mortgage fix, is only talking about seizing home loans held in private labeled mortgage-backed securities.  The firm is deliberately avoiding MBS issued by Fannie and Freddie possibly because of DeMarco’s opposition to principal reductions. MRP’s focus on private label MBS has earned the wrath of many mortgage bond investor trade groups.

UF Weekend Reads

Nice weather today in NYC. Enjoy it today before Sunday’s deluge. Here’s Sam Forgione’s picks. You can now follow Sam on twitter @samuelforgione


From The New Yorker:

Nicholas Lemann explores new books that illustrate the ties between politics and the economy.

From BusinessWeek:

Lazard’s Michele Lamarche takes on the tough task of courting debt-strapped nations.

Check Out Line: Toys R Us says more is merrier this Xmas

Toys R Us pop-up store Check out the latest attempt by a U.S. retailer to win shoppers ahead of the key holiday shopping season.

Toys R Us is planning to open about 600 pop-up stores in malls and shopping centers around the United States this Christmas season. That is more than six times what the world’s largest dedicated toy retailer opened last year. Many of those nearly 90 Toys R Us Express locations have remained open through 2010.

The company, which already operates 587 full-size Toys R Us stores, said the latest initiative should broaden its reach and win more shoppers.

General Growth battle intensifies

The battle for control of General Growth, owner of shopping centers across America, continues, as it  weighs two rival offers.

General Growth, which is trying to exit bankruptcy, will consider at a board meeting Thursday whether to postpone a key court hearing set for Friday as it continues talks with suitors Simon Property and Brookfied Asset Management.

It has asked Simon to increase its $5.8 billion bid. General Growth may also come back with a new counter0ffer on antitrust issues that could arise from a merger of the two largest U.S. mall owners.

Bad economy equals tough time for teeth

We all know that people have cut back on shopping, dining out, vacations and other pursuits in the difficult economy. Turns out many are also neglecting their smiles.

dentistMore than 90 percent of dentists surveyed by the Chicago Dental Society said clients are putting off cosmetic procedures, up from 60 percent a year earlier.

The stress of unemployment and other concerns also are taking their toll.  Sixty-five percent of dentists saw an increase in jaw clenching and teeth grinding among their patients.

Why should the government control inflation?


The ‘reform agenda’ understood as ‘market-oriented reform’ or giving more space to market mechanism in food and fuel economy seems to have been held up.

The government can not be seen to be doing away with subsidies just as prices are up. Its hand is stayed for now.

But is that enough for say the gross national happiness?

Food and fuel inflation has been in the news for a while.

The government has no short-term control over supply side issues causing price rise like a bad monsoon leading to a low harvest or floods, but it can control the rising demand by reining in liquidity.

Check Out Line: The dreaded 10 percent

unemployment1Check out the grim unemployment numbers from the U.S. Labor Department on Friday, a day after dozens of retail chains reported lackluster October sales.

U.S. employers cut a deeper-than-expected 190,000 jobs in October, driving the jobless rate to 10.2 percent, the highest in more than 26 years.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the monthly unemployment rate to edge up to 9.9 percent from 9.8 percent in September.

Check Out Line: What goes around comes around

snowmanCheck out what’s coming around again this holiday season.

It’s that gift you gave someone last year.

According to a holiday shopping poll conducted by Consumer Reports in October, 36 percent of Americans say they have “recycled” a holiday gift. That’s up from 31 percent in 2008 and 24 percent in 2007.

Those more likely to re-gift include women, adults under 55 years old, residents of the U.S. West and people with children under the age of 12.

Want to prevent your gifts from making the rounds again?

Skip presents like socks, slippers and ties, which were on the list of most disappointing 2008 holiday gifts, according to the survey.

Check Out Line: Jonesing for another earnings beat

Check out which company Wall Street keeps underestimating.

It’s Jones Apparel. The retailer and apparel maker once again “reported a much higher-than-expected” quarterly profit. Last quarter, Reuters said the company “beat estimates handsomely.” The quarter before that it was “easily beat estimates.”

Heck, even in the fourth quarter, when almost all retailers and apparel makers were hammered by the recession and credit meltdown, the company reported a “smaller-than-expected” quarterly loss.

Aside from demonstrating that Reuters has several different ways of saying “big earnings beat,” the reports also raise this question: “Why does Wall Street keep missing the mark on Jones?”

And if it were a W?


The Dow Jones Industrial Average has recouped more than 50 percent of the losses from the October 2007 peak and the March 2009 bottom.


It’s been a remarkable rally, and the cheerleaders of the world’s major economies say it indicates a return of confidence to markets.


Woolworths was one of the first casualties of the downturnThey say the world’s market rallies are based on galloping improvements in economic fundamentals, and this just eight months after many of them were predicting the end of the world as we know it.