Category: Econolypse

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Recession and the Recovery Problem

I sit outside the auto repair shop waiting for the brake light switch on my aging Toyota Corolla to be fixed. I type on the Nokia N97 smartphonne, on which I also have been reading news. I had blogged that the N97 would get a second chance. The iPhone 3GS is on ice, so to speak. But my N97 experience is topic for another post.

My interest here is the news I was reading in the New York Times about an analyst report suggesting that the economy is starting to recover. It’s not. But first, the Times asserts: “A measure of supplier deliveries, rising stock prices, an increase in consumer expectations, a jump in building permits and the ‘interest rate spread’ bolstered the index in August.”

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Reich’s Right: No Economic Recovery in Sight

U Cal Berkley prof Robert Reich astutely and concisely sums up the prospects for economic revival in commentary “When Will the Recovery Begin? Never.” I saw it today at Salon, but Robert posted to his blog on July 9.

Other economic observers who talk about a recovery underway go oddly together with reality. There is no recovery now, and there isn’t going to be one in the foreseeable future. 

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The China Question

Is the American era over? I begin to wonder if the answer is yes. History is the reason. In 1914, the British Empire spanned the globe, and London was the financial capitol (eh, capital would work, too) of the world. Four years later, England’s fortunes had changed. The country had shifted much of its manufacturing production to the war and spent quite a bit of its capital supporting European allies. Meanwhile, the United States picked up manufacturing slack and monetary might. Could America’s fortunes change so quickly?

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Let the Bears Eat Bear Stearns

I agree with Gretchen Morgenson, writing for the New York Times. The Fed shouldn’t bail out Bear Stearns. The fed crossed a line by keeping afloat a major architect of the housing debacle.

I wrote my first blog post about the housing bubble in August 2005, a year after deciding not to buy a home in the Washington, DC suburb of Bowie. It was already clear to me in summer 2004 that something akin to a repeat of the dot-com bubble was taking place in the housing market.

Had we bought in 2004, we would likely hold a mortgage that exceeds the house’s reduced value. We could never have moved to San Diego. 

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Housing Bubble Myths Pop

For more than a year I’ve warned that the housing market would retreat with wicked vengeance, with reverberations moving through the US economy as it did earlier in other countries. Today’s Fortune story “Getting real about the real estate bubble” rips apart some of the myths sustaining the bubble.

Shawn Tully whacks the hell out of four bubble myths: “As long as job growth is strong, prices can’t go down”; “the builders learned their lesson in the last downturn. They won’t swamp the market with new houses when the market turns”; “low interest rates will keep values rising, or at the very least, put a floor under prices”; “restriction on development in the suburbs ensure low supply, and guarantee rising prices”. 

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I’d Like to Be Wrong About This

I am back on my “collapsing housing market” bandwagon. Today’s New York Times story “Keep Eyes Fixed on Your Variable-Rate Mortgage” tells of the coming doom—people unable to pay for their homes because of risky variable-rate or interest-only loans.

The story, by Damon Darlin, reveals that nationwide, interest-only loans accounted for 26.7 percent of mortgages last year. In Washington: 40 percent! 

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When the Boom Busts

I have repeatedly blogged about the impending housing market crisis. While not as apocalyptic as my stated position, SmartMoney story “Home Crunch” warns of problems on the coasts, where inflated home prices and risky mortgages will pinch many home owners.

In my neighborhood, signs of a sales slowdown are everywhere. Two houses around the corner have been on the market for months. A year ago, they would have sold within a week. Some houses are selling, but the turnover clearly is slowing down.