Daily Market Commentary for December 21, 2011
As congressional leaders continue battling supposedly on behalf of American people, pressure has intensified to agree on a compromise bill to extend the payroll-tax cut which will result in a tax increase for 160 million workers and the loss of benefits for the unemployed.
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National Association of Realtors reported that during November, existing-home sales rose 4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.42 million. In November, median price of homes in fell 3.5% to $164,200 from previous year. Housing inventory in November fell 5.8% to 2.58 million existing homes, a seven-month supply.
According to revisions reported by the National Association of Realtors, an average of 14% fewer existing homes were sold annually between 2007 and 2010. The revision points to a housing market that was even weaker than previously believed. There were average annual sales of about 4.42 million existing homes during the revisionâ€™s time period, compared with prior estimates of about 5.16 million. NAR revised the data to correct for some sampling and data-reporting problems. General trends remain the same, even though revisions changed sales levels with data to be re-benchmarked annually. NAR reported existing-home sales rose 4% in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.42 million compared with 4.25 million in previous month. From 2010, median price of homes sold during November fell 3.5% to $164,200 according to NAR. Housing inventory in November fell 5.8% to 2.58 million existing homes, a 7-month supply at the current sales prices, compared with a 7.7-month supply in October. By region, in the Northeast sales rose by 9.8%; in the Midwest sales rose by 4.3%; in the West sales rose by 3.6% and in the South sales rose by 2.4%.
In the U.S., newly initiated foreclosures jumped in Q3 of the year and are expected to remain at a high level for the "foreseeable future," per a U.S. bank regulator. During Q3 per the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the number of new foreclosures increased by 21.1%. The OCC reported the rise follows an end to voluntary freezes on foreclosures that started in late 2010 by mortgage servicers. For the period from July to September there were 347,726 newly initiated foreclosures. At the end of the quarter, nearly 1.33 million foreclosures were in process and 172,785 home forfeitures were completed. "With this continued high level of seriously delinquent mortgages out there we will continue to see a high level of new foreclosure starts and at some point in the relatively near future we can expect to see the number of competed foreclosure sales...starting to pick up and increase," Bruce Krueger, lead mortgage expert at the OCC, said on a conference call with reporters. The overall quality of mortgages in the U.S. was little changed from previous quarter which is an indication that the market may be stabilizing, albeit with an elevated level of delinquencies. The percentage of current and performing loans decreased by 0.1 percentage point from previous quarter, to 88% of the overall portfolio examined by the OCC. The portfolio comprises 62% of all mortgages outstanding in the U.S. or 32.4 million loans totaling $5.6 trillion in principal balances. The percentage of mortgages that were 30 to 59 days delinquent remained at 3% of the overall portfolio - unchanged from the previous quarter per the OCC. A category that includes mortgages that are 60 or more days delinquent, the percentage of seriously delinquent mortgages held steady at 4.9% of the portfolio. "Servicers continued to emphasize alternatives to foreclosure during the third quarter, initiating more than two-and-a-half times as many new home retention actions--loan modifications, trial-period plans, and payment plans--as completed foreclosures, short sales, and deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure transactions," the OCC report said. Mortgage servicers implemented 458,899 new home retention actions during the quarter. Mortgage servicers, look to avoid taking possession of a mortgaged property. The Home Affordable Modification Program [HAMP], the Obama administration's signature loan-modification program, saw modifications drop by 23%, to 53,941. Krueger said HAMP is a good program however, fewer and fewer borrowers are able to qualify for its strict criteria. The OCC reported that during the past five quarters, servicers initiated more than 2.4 million home retention actions, 889,990 modifications, 809,658 trial-period plans and 717,635 payment plans.
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