Thursday, April 30, 2009

San Francisco Chronicle - "Uptick in consumer spending spurs rebound hope" (4-30-09)

"Even though the economy shrank again in the first three months - and by a lot - Americans stepped up purchases of cars, furniture and appliances. The surge in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, could set the stage for a rebound later this year."

CNN - "Foreclosure filings in record jump" (4-30-09)

"Lenders continued to rewrite troubled mortgages at a fast clip during March, but the weakening economy still sent foreclosure starts soaring to a record high. March mortgage workout results announced on Thursday by Hope Now - a coalition of mortgage lenders, servicers, investors and community groups put together to fight the foreclosure plague - were a decidedly mixed bag."

Bloomberg - "Senate Defeats Mortgage ‘Cram-Down’ After Banks, Democrats Balk" (4-30-09)

"The U.S. Senate rejected legislation letting U.S. bankruptcy judges cut mortgage terms to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, a victory for banks and credit unions that said the measure would lead to higher loan costs."

Bloomberg - "Fixed Mortgage Rate in U.S. Matches Record Low" (4-30-09)

The average rate of a 30-year mortgage dropped to 4.78 percent, the lowest in records dating to 1970, McLean, Virginia- based Freddie Mac said today in a statement. The rate hit that level the week of April 2. This week’s 15-year fixed rate was unchanged at 4.48 percent."

Orange County Register - "Is Bank of America overdoing its fees?" (4-30-09)

"Bank of America is settling for $35 million a class action lawsuit alleging it charged consumers excessive fees for having insufficient funds. The settlement is preliminary — it must be approved by the Superior Court in San Francisco."

Realty Times - "Congressman Calvert Suggests We Fix The Housing Market By Increasing Demand" (4-30-09)

"Suppose, just suppose, that a $15,000 tax credit were available to anyone who purchases a home, and for every home purchased. That incentive should increase demand. And suppose, just suppose, that it so increased demand that it resulted in 1 million more homes being sold in 2009 than in 2008. That would be significant (though still behind the 6.4 million units pace of 2006). It would cost the government in lost taxes or refunds about $15 billion. Is that excessive?"

Los Angeles Times - "CB Richard Ellis reports its first quarterly net loss amid weak market" (4-30-09)

"Commercial real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. on Wednesday reported its first loss since it went public nearly five years ago, capping months of difficulty in the depressed property market."

Los Angeles Times - "Ryland earnings fall as low-priced foreclosures hurt new-home sales" (4-30-09)

"The stagnant new-home market strained Calabasas-based home builder Ryland Group Inc., which on Wednesday reported a first-quarter loss of $75.3 million as revenue dropped 36% compared with the same period a year ago."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NAHB - "Big Wins for Move-Up Buyers in a Down Market" (4-29-09)

"Potential home buyers who aren’t eligible for the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit because they currently own a home actually have what could be an even bigger advantage — the opportunity to buy a new home that is bigger and better than they could have just a year or two before."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Decrease in Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (4-29-09)

he Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 24, 2009. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 960.6, a decrease of 18.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 1172.2 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 17.4 percent compared with the previous week and increased 62.7 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

CNN - "
Optimism about economy grows - poll" (4-29-09)

"Americans are becoming slightly more optimistic about the nation's economy, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey showed Wednesday, but the glow surrounding President Obama is wearing off for some as the president marks his first 100 days in office.Some 37% of the people questioned in the poll say the current economic conditions in the country are very poor -- a figure that's down from 48% last month and 66% in December. Another 17% now say economic conditions are good, up six points from last month."

Inman - "Brokers OK'd to negotiate loan mods" (4-29-09)

"The number of real estate brokers authorized by California regulators to collect advance fees for negotiating loan modifications and short sales on behalf of homeowners has grown from less than two dozen in mid-November to almost 600."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Economy: GDP Shrinks in Worst Slump in 50 Years" (4-29-09)

The U.S. economy plunged again in the first quarter, making this the worst recession in at least half a century. Gross domestic product dropped at a 6.1 percent annual pace, weaker than forecast, after contracting at a 6.3 percent rate in the last three months of 2008, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The report, which reflected a record slump in inventories and further declines in housing, came hours before Federal Reserve officials said the economy continued to contract at a 'somewhat slower' pace."

Orange County Register - "Citi, BofA and four other banks must raise capital" (4-29-09)

"At least six of the 19 largest U.S. banks require additional capital, according to preliminary results of government stress tests, people briefed on the matter said. While some of the lenders may need extra cash injections from the government, most of the capital is likely to come from converting preferred shares to common equity, the people said. The Federal Reserve is now hearing appeals from banks, including Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., that regulators have determined need more of a cushion against losses, they added."

Orange County Register - "Newport property investor sued by investors" (4-29-09)

"The Daily Pilot reports that a Newport Beach real estate investment firm is being sued by investors who accused the company of operating a Ponzi scheme. The company, MKA Capital Group Advisors LLC, which operates several investment funds, issued a statement confirming that it has been the target of civil suits and has received information requests from federal investigators and regulators. But the company declined to comment on specific allegations other than to say it will 'cooperate fully with authorities.'"
NAHB - "Most Baby Boombers Prefer to Age in Place, But Growing Numbers Head to Age-Restricted Communities" (4-28-09)

"Most Baby Boomers, like their parents, are choosing to 'age in place,' but a large and growing number – more than 1.2 million households – are choosing to move to communities designed to meet their needs, according to a study released today by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the MetLife Mature Market Institute (MMI). The data is significant because by 2010 the Boomers will represent one quarter of the U.S. population – a group that will greatly impact the choices available in the housing market."

CNN - "U.S. to pay off mortgage investors" (4-28-09)

"The U.S. Treasury Department will Tuesday tap a $50 billion housing rescue fund to pay off mortgage investors and reduce monthly payments for millions of borrowers, said a senior administration official."

Reuters - "Consumers, home prices boost recovery hopes" (4-28-09)

"U.S. consumer confidence posted its biggest jump in more than three years in April while the slump in home prices showed signs of slowing in February, adding to hopes that the recession may be waning. The Conference Board said its sentiment index climbed to 39.2 this month from an upwardly revised 26.9 in March. The April reading, which was above economists' median expectation of a reading of 29.8, was the highest since November 2008."

Bloomberg - "Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Declined at Slower Pace" (4-28-09)

The decline in home prices in 20 major U.S. cities slowed in February for the first time since 2007, amplifying signals that the market may be stabilizing. The S&P/Case-Shiller index’s 18.6 percent decrease compares with a record 19 percent decline the month before. The gauge has fallen every month since January 2007, and year-over-year records began in 2001."

Orange County Register - "Early foreclosure filings spike across O.C." (4-28-09)

"Notices of default, which initiate the foreclosure process, rose in 76 of 84 ZIPs tracked by DataQuick in the first three months of the year vs. the same period in 2008, or roughly 90% of ZIPs."

Orange County Register - "Requests for property tax reviews up 160%" (4-28-09)

"With home values falling, an increasing number of homeowners will be entitled to a temporary reduction of their property tax. Homeowners qualify for a tax cut if their home’s market value is less than the assessed value on the county’s tax rolls. Generally, homes don’t qualify for a cut unless they were purchased in 2003 or later."

Monday, April 27, 2009

CAR - "March home sales increased 63.8 percent" (4-27-09)

Existing, single-family home sales increased 63.8 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted rate of 522,980 on an annualized basis"

Bloomberg - "Home Vacancies Rise in U.S. to Record Amid Recession" (4-27-09)

A record 19.1 million homes stood unoccupied in the first quarter and the U.S. homeownership rate fell as the recession sapped demand for real estate. The number of vacant homes, including foreclosures, properties for sale and vacation properties, jumped from 18.6 million a year earlier, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a report today. Households that own their own residence declined for the third straight quarter to 67.3 percent."

Bloomberg - "Four Indicted in $70 Million Mortgage Ponzi Scheme" (4-27-09)

Four people were indicted in an alleged $70 million Ponzi scheme that promised more than 1,000 homeowners their mortgages would be paid off within seven years, authorities said."

Bloomberg - "Bank of America Says Some Mortgage Aid Depends on Legislation" (4-27-09)

"Lawmakers must pass legislation to shield mortgage servicers from bondholder lawsuits if the U.S. wants as many homeowners helped under President Barack Obama’s loan-modification plan as targeted, a Bank of America Corp. executive said."

Bloomberg - "Bernanke Warming Prompts Record Company Debt Sales" (4-27-09)

The Libor-OIS premium that indicates banks’ reluctance to lend to each other fell to 0.85 percentage point today, the lowest level since before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in September, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Companies have raised a record $468 billion in U.S. bond sales this year. Prices of the most senior portions of mortgage bonds backed by prime U.S. jumbo loans have climbed 24 percent in the past five weeks, according to London-based Barclays Capital."

Bloomberg - "Simon Tried to Buy General Growth Malls, Chief Says" (4-27-09)

Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. shopping-mall owner by stock-market value, tried to buy real estate from rival General Growth Properties Inc. before it filed for bankruptcy, Chief Executive David E. Simon said."

Wall Street Journal - "
House Hunt: Options Stir In Builders" (4-27-09)

"Among the companies in which there was robust trading was Beazer Homes USA Inc. Activity in Beazer options rocketed to 15 times the normal level, with investors picking up 15,000 calls that allow them to buy the company's stock"

Orange County Register - "Foreclosures drop in 54% of O.C. ZIPs" (4-27-09)

"Banks seized fewer homes in 45 of 84 ZIPs tracked by DataQuick in the first three months of the year vs. the same period in 2008, or roughly 54% of ZIPs. Foreclosure moratoriums by lenders and a state law requiring banks to communicate with borrowers at least 30 days before officially starting the foreclosure process are surely big reasons why."

Orange County Register - "Rents drop in all but 4 O.C. cities" (4-27-09)

"RealFacts’ first-quarter survey of large apartment complexes shows that the average rent fell in 19 out of 23 cities for which it reported data. Only four cities had an increase."
Reuters - "U.S. pressured BofA to complete Merrill deal" (4-23-09)

"Bank of America Corp CEO Kenneth Lewis was pressured by senior federal officials Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke to accept a merger with troubled Merrill Lynch & Co or lose his job, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday. In a letter to senior members of congressional committees and the head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Cuomo said Lewis met then U.S. Treasury Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke in Washington in mid-December."

Bloomberg - "Fannie Mae Creates Housing Mirage With Bum Loans" (4-24-09)

Give money away. That was a solution to the housing crisis mortgage giant Fannie Mae hit on last year. Faced with growing numbers of homeowners unable to make mortgage payments, Fannie decided to fund loans to borrowers that were instant losers. The point was to buy time. Even though those loans resulted in a $453 million loss, they helped keep troubled homeowners from defaulting. That meant Fannie for now didn’t have to make good on loan guarantees that may have cost it as much as $2.4 billion."

Wall Street Journal - "In Real Estate, A New Class of Haves and Have Nots" (4-24-09)

"The latest data from the National Association of Realtors, which rattled nerves on Wall Street this week, showed national home sales are still weak. But they also showed how home sellers nationwide have split into two camps." - "Five questions for Robert Reich" (4-25-09)

"I do believe we're approaching the end of the beginning, but I see little reason for optimism over the next 12 to 18 months. Aggregate demand is so far short of total capacity that we're still caught in a vicious cycle in which employers have to continue to cut payrolls, which shrinks consumers' wallets and forces them to buy even less and postpone payments on their loans, which causes more layoffs and generates more bad loans. The stimulus is a step forward but it's less than what's needed, and it doesn't really take full effect until the middle of 2010."

New York Times - "Recession, Far From Over, Already Setting Records" (4-24-09)

"The accompanying chart shows how far that index has declined from prerecession peaks during each downturn since 1960. The figure for March, released this week, showed a decline of 5.6 percent from the high set in November 2007, the month before the recession began, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research."

The Big Picture - "The Elusive Housing 'Fair Value'" (4-24-09)

"we know the recession plus a glut of foreclosed homes creates a 'self-reinforcing cycle.' Job losses and income decreases lead to more distressed sales, with prices especially pressured. Falling prices make put mortgage holders underwater — holding homes worth less than the mortgage. This leads to walkaways, jingle mail, and even more foreclosures. All of this adds up to an even greater excess supply of homes for sale. More supply equals lower prices. The entire vicious cycle continues."

Office of the Governor - "State of Emergency - Unemployment Proclamation" (4-17-09)

"on April 17, 2009, the State Employment Development Department (EDD) reported that the unemployment rate in California increased to 11.2 percent in March, that nonfarm payroll jobs declined by 62,100, that the year-over-change (from March 2008 to March 2009) showed a decrease of 637,400 jobs, and that the number of people unemployed in California was 2,080,000, up over 119,000 for the month, and up by 913,000 compared with March of 2008"

Los Angeles Times - "Housing downturn moves up to Silicon Valley mansions" (4-25-09)

"Reporting from Los Angeles and Los Altos Hills, Calif. -- The housing slump has reached even the wrought-iron gates of Silicon Valley's great estates, where the rich and sometimes not-so-famous are having to adjust their thinking and their asking prices."

Zero Hedge - "The One Trillion Commercial Real Estate Time Bomb" (4-25-09)

"there seems to be an unfortunate misunderstanding in the market that lenders will simply agree to roll the maturities on non-qualifying loans, and that the expected percentage of loans that need special lender treatment is low, roughly 5-10% of total loans. In reality the percentage of underwater loans at maturity is likely to be in the 60-70% range, meaning that refi extensions could not possibly occur without the incurrence of major losses for lenders."

CBIA - "New-Home Construction Up in March, CBIA Announces" (4-24-09)

New-home construction in California jumped sharply in March compared to February, which the California Building Industry Association said was a clear sign that the homebuyer tax credit enacted in the beginning of March is helping to clear out inventory and generate new-home construction. According to statistics compiled by the Construction Industry Research Board, 3,317 permits were pulled throughout California during the month of March, down 31 percent when compared to the same month a year ago but up 39 percent from February."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Los Angeles Times - "Mortgage industry changes throw new hurdles in borrowers' way" (4-18-09)

"Take Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's add-on fees for loans purchased after April 1. In some cases, applicants are being hit with extra fees of 3% to 5% because of the type of property they want to buy or refinance, their credit scores or the size of their down payment."

Orange County Register - "U-Haul shows moves back to California" (4-21-09)

"For 2008, 1.8% more U-Haul customers moved out of this state than in. But in the first 15 weeks of this year — 0.2% more California moves were inbound vs. outbound."

NAHB - "First-Time Home Buyers Who Want New Construction, Tax Credit Must Act Now" (4-22-09)

"Mike Dishberger of Sandcastle Homes, Inc., in Houston, Texas, said that building a home from scratch can take anywhere from four to six months depending on the floor plan and location. 'Builders are ready and willing to work with potential home buyers to get them into the new home of their dreams, but time is running out to make those dreams a reality while also benefiting from the $8,000 tax credit.'"

DQNews - "Golden State Mortgage Defaults Jump to Record High" (4-22-09)

"A total of 135,431 default notices were sent out during the January- to-March period. That was up 80.0 percent from 75,230 for the prior quarter and up 19.0 percent from 113,809 in first quarter 2008, according to MDA DataQuick."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (4-22-09)

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 17, 2009. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 1172.2, an increase of 5.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 1113.2 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 5.3 percent compared with the previous week and increased 76.9 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

Yahoo - "
GE exec says economic crisis resetting capitalism" (4-22-09)

"The top executive of General Electric Co. said Wednesday he couldn't predict when the recession would end or how bad it will be, but said the global economic crisis has 'fundamentally reset' the way companies do business and capitalism itself."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mortgage Bankers Association - "MBA: Bank of America and Wells Fargo Were Top U.S. Commercial/Multifamily Originators in 2008" (4-21-09)

"By dollar volume, the top five intermediaries in 2008 were Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P., CBRE | Melody, Wells Fargo, NorthMarq Capital, and PNC Real Estate. The top five lenders were Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Wachovia, PNC Real Estate, and GE Real Estate."

Bloomberg - "Audit Cites $900 Million Loss on Citigroup Assets" (4-21-09)

The U.S. Treasury estimated $900 million in losses as of the end of last year on $301 billion in Citigroup Inc. assets that the government is guaranteeing, according to a new audit report released today."

Bloomberg - "ICAP Loses 85% of Mortgage Bond Trading to Dealerweb" (4-21-09)

ICAP Plc, the world’s largest broker of trades between banks, has lost 85 percent of its business over six weeks in the most-active part of the mortgage- bond market as Wall Street firms shift trades to their own electronic network."

Bloomberg - "Fed’s Kohn Says Economy May Stabilize, Start Recovery This Year" (4-21-09)

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn said the U.S. economy may stabilize in the second half and begin a slow rebound after a strengthening of 'fragile' financial markets."

Bloomberg - "Fed’s Hoenig Says Giving Capital May Prolong Crisis" (4-21-09)

Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Thomas Hoenig said injecting more capital into troubled financial companies may prolong the credit crisis and give the firms an unfair advantage."

Orange County Register - "O.C. housing seen 13.7% undervalued" (4-21-09)

"Economists at IHS Global Insight say Orange County homes were 13.7% undervalued in the fourth quarter, based on their formula that includes various economic and demographic factors plus historic housing trends. IHS pegged O.C. undervaluation at 3.7% in the third quarter. (This chart shows at fourth quarter data for IHS O.C. home pricing, annual rate of price change, and overvaluation/undervaluation.)"

Orange County Register - "Credit losses may hit $4.1 trillion worldwide" (4-21-09)

"Banks will shoulder about 61 percent of the writedowns, with insurers, pension funds and other nonbanks assuming the rest, the Washington-based lender said in a report released today on the state of the global financial system. The fund projected losses of $2.7 trillion at U.S. financial institutions, an increase from its estimates of $2.2 trillion in January and $1.4 trillion in October."

Inman - "First-time buyer tax credit a hit" (4-21-09)

"Preliminary numbers from the Internal Revenue Service suggest 1.4 million taxpayers will claim the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit on their 2008 tax returns, meaning the program is likely to meet or exceed the 2 million target set by lawmakers before it sunsets Nov. 30, 2009."

Inman - "BofA hiring 5,000 to meet refi demand" (4-21-09)

"Bank of America is hiring 5,000 employees to handle rising demand for mortgage refinancings, the company said Monday in announcing a $4.2 billion first-quarter profit."

Monday, April 20, 2009

New York Times - "It May Be Time for the Fed to Go Negative" (4-18-09)

"The problem today, it seems, is that the Federal Reserve has done just about as much interest rate cutting as it can. Its target for the federal funds rate is about zero, so it has turned to other tools, such as buying longer-term debt securities, to get the economy going again. But the efficacy of those tools is uncertain, and there are risks associated with them."

Bloomberg - "Volcker Says Fed’s Authority Probably to Be Reviewed" (4-18-09)

U.S. lawmakers from both political parties have expressed concern in recent months that the central bank has overstepped its authority by creating several emergency credit programs aimed at reviving lending and ending the recession."

San Francisco Chronicle - "State unemployment rate highest since 1941" (4-18-09)

"The state unemployment rate soared to 11.2 percent in March, the highest since before World War II, leaving a record 2.1 million Californians out of work, according to a report issued Friday."

Bloomberg - "
Obama Can’t Pick Up the Phone for Mortgage Customers" (4-20-09)

President Barack Obama is counting on banks to help revive the economy by refinancing home loans for as many as 5 million borrowers and modifying the mortgages of another 4 million who don’t qualify for refinancing. Lenders, swamped by customers, miss an estimated 750,000 calls a month, which could translate into 125,000 mortgages added to the 850,000 loans that are made each month, according to Guy Cecala of Inside Mortgage Finance."

Inman - "Short sales, REOs contribute wave of lawsuits" (4-20-09)

"An increase in short-sale attempts has resulted in an uptick in short-sale lawsuits, while the recent increase in loan-modification attempts could result in future litigation, according to a presentation at the San Diego Association of Realtors Expo earlier this month."

Bloomberg - "Lennar Declines on Possible Stock Sale, Drywall Suit" (4-20-09)

Lennar Corp. fell 19 percent in New York trading after the U.S. homebuilder said it may sell up to $275 million in Class A common stock."

Bloomberg - "Bank of America Shares Decline on More Bad Loans" (4-20-09)

Bank of America Corp., the largest U.S. lender by assets, dropped the most in almost two months of New York trading after the company put aside $6.4 billion to cover a growing pool of uncollectible loans."

Los Angeles Times - "Leading economic indicators dip more than expected" (4-20-09)

"A private sector group's index of leading economic indicators fell more than expected in March, but the forecast called for the recession's intensity to ease this summer. The Conference Board said Monday that its monthly forecast of economic activity fell 0.3 percent in March and has not risen in nine months. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a 0.2 percent decline."

Orange County Register - "Just 19 days worth of O.C. foreclosures for sale" (4-20-09)

"There were just 613 bank-owned foreclosures for sale in Orange County last week — and deals in the works to buy homes from banks totaled 938. That puts Thomas’ expected market time for foreclosures at 19 days vs. 3 months for all homes."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bloomberg - "Stiglitz Says Ties to Wall Street Doom Bank Rescue" (4-17-09)

The Obama administration’s bank- rescue efforts will probably fail because the programs have been designed to help Wall Street rather than create a viable financial system, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said."

Bloomberg - "General Growth’s Bankruptcy May Let Rivals Buy Malls" (4-17-09)

When General Growth Properties Inc. bought Rouse Co. for $11.3 billion in 2004, then-Chief Executive Officer John Bucksbaum said the deal amounted to 'five years worth of acquisitions in one fell swoop.' Now the challenge will be keeping those assets. Purchasing Rouse gave General Growth malls including Boston’s Faneuil Hall, New York’s South Street Seaport and the Woodlands in Houston. It also added almost $10 billion in debt to its balance sheet and led the second-largest U.S. mall owner to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday."

Bloomberg - "GMAC Follows Wells Fargo Into ‘Warehouse’ Mortgages" (4-17-09)

GMAC LLC, the auto and home lender that required a $6 billion government lifeline last year to stay afloat, said it’s taking advantage of record low interest rates by issuing more loans through independent mortgage bankers."

Bloomberg - "Lender Processing Plunges on News Report of Inquiry" (4-17-09)

Lender Processing Services Inc. plunged as much as 37 percent after Dow Jones News Service reported that the company was the subject of an inquiry by the U.S. Trustees Office, an arm of the Justice Department that monitors bankruptcy courts."

Bloomberg - "FICO Web Site May Help Homeowners Seeking Loan Modifications" (4-17-09)

The Minneapolis-based credit-rating company is unveiling a new Web site today,, to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. Borrowers complete a confidential online form and should find out within seconds whether they may qualify for loan modifications or refinancing, according to a statement from the company. A free credit counselor approved by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development department will contact the eligible borrower within 48 hours, FICO said."

Orange County Register - "O.C. office owners face bleak prospects" (4-17-09)

"Three brokerages issued first-quarter reports showing that office rents in Orange County continue to fall as vacancies rise. The company statistics vary since their data come from surveys of different buildings with different parameters. But all three agreed on the overall trends."

Orange County Register - "$61,838 pay needed to afford O.C. rents" (4-17-09)

"Orange County has the 7th highest apartment costs among major metropolitan areas — when measured as what salary it would take to afford (30% of income) a typical two-bedroom apartment, according to affordable housing advocates at National Low Income Housing Coalition."

Realty Times - "Investor Report: Rental Market Hurting" (4-17-09)

"A new survey by a real estate research company confirms that landlords nationwide are being forced to lower what they charge their customers, whether through direct rent reductions or freebies and breaks on lease terms that have the same net result. New York-based REIS, Inc. reports that half of all apartment buildings in the U.S. reduced rents in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of this year, according to Business Week."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Los Angeles Times - "Lancaster proposes limiting Section 8 housing" (4-10-09)

"Determined to slash the number of Section 8 renters in Lancaster, officials are proposing amendments to the city's rental housing ordinance that would allow business licenses to be withheld from landlords who want to rent to low-income tenants with federal vouchers. Officials contend that there are more than 2,300 residential units occupied by Section 8 tenants in their city, about 12% of the total number of vouchers administered by the Housing Authority of Los Angeles County. The federal program provides rental subsidies for the needy."

NAHB - "Single-Family Housing Starts Unchanged In March " (4-16-09)

"Characteristic volatility in the multifamily sector pushed nationwide housing starts down 10.8 percent in March as production of single-family homes remained unchanged, according to numbers released today by the U.S. Commerce Department. Overall starts fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 510,000 units, due entirely to a 29 percent reduction on the multifamily side that largely offset a big gain in apartment and condo building in the previous month."

DQNews - "California March Statewide Home Sales/Median Prices" (4-16-09)

"An estimated 36,215 new and resale houses and condos were sold statewide last month. That was up 23.9 percent from 29,225 in February and up 47.4 percent from 24,565 for March 2008. Sales have increased on a year-over-year basis the last nine months. California sales for the month of March have varied from last year's low to a peak of 68,848 in 2005, the average is 44,813. MDA DataQuick's statistics go back to 1988."

DQNews - "Bay Area home sales continue climb, median still below $300K" (4-16-09)

"A total of 6,325 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the nine-county Bay Area last month. That was up 25.7 percent from 5,032 in February and up 29.1 percent from 4,898 in March 2008, according to MDA DataQuick of San Diego."

Mercury News - "Mortgage rates fall to just shy of record lows" (4-16-09)

"Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac said today that average rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 4.82 percent this week, down from an average of 4.87 percent last week. Rates have been below 5 percent for five consecutive weeks."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Economy: Jobless Claims Fall, Housing Stabilizes" (4-16-09)

Initial jobless claims decreased by 53,000 to 610,000 in the week ended April 11, the fewest since January, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Builders broke ground on 358,000 single-family homes at an annual rate, unchanged from the prior month. "

Yahoo - "US foreclosures up 24 percent in 1st quarter" (4-16-09)

"The number of American households threatened with losing their homes grew 24 percent in the first three months of this year and is poised to rise further as major lenders restart foreclosures after a temporary break, according to data released Thursday."

Yahoo - "Falling housing starts dampen hope on housing recovery" (4-16-09)

"The Commerce Department said housing starts fell 10.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 510,000 units, the second lowest on records dating back to 1959, from February's downwardly revised 572,000 units."

Bloomberg - "General Growth Files Biggest U.S. Property Bankruptcy" (4-16-09)

General Growth Properties Inc. filed the biggest real estate bankruptcy in U.S. history after amassing $27 billion in debt during an acquisition spree that turned it into the second-largest shopping mall owner."

Bloomberg - "Ackman Sees ‘Zero’ Chance of General Growth Fire Sale" (4-16-09)

Ackman’s hedge-fund firm agreed to provide $375 million in bankruptcy financing to General Growth as part of his wager that the company can restructure without wiping out shareholders. Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management LP began accumulating a stake in General Growth in November by buying stock and derivatives known as swaps."

Bloomberg - "GMAC Boosts Home Lending, Will Add 1,000 Workers, Marano Says" (4-16-09)

"GMAC LLC, the auto and home lender that was bailed out to save General Motors Corp., said its mortgage unit is benefiting from an increase in refinancing and jumbo loans and is hiring 1,000 people to handle the workload."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NAHB - "Home Builder Confidence Posts Biggest Gain In Five Years" (4-15-09)

"Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose five points in April to the highest level since October 2008, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today. This gain was the largest one-month increase recorded since May of 2003, and brings the HMI out of single-digit territory for the first time in six months – to 14. Every component of the HMI reflected the boost, with the biggest gain recorded for sales expectations in the next six months."

DQNews - "Southland home sales up; median levels off" (4-15-09)

"A total of 19,486 new and resale homes sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was up 27.9 percent from 15,231 for the prior month, and up 52.1 percent from 12,808 for March 2008, according to MDA DataQuick of San Diego."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Decline in Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (4-15-09)

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 10, 2009. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 1113.2, a decrease of 11.0 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 1250.6 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 10.9 percent compared with the previous week and increased 45.6 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

Bloomberg - "
Downtown Los Angeles Population Up 37%, Study Finds" (4-15-09)

The population of downtown Los Angeles is growing, aging and better educated after a decade of residential and entertainment construction. The area’s population climbed to 39,537 last year from 28,878 in 2006, according to a study released today by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District and Los Angeles- based Lauren Schlau Consulting. The median age of survey respondents jumped to 37 from 31 two years earlier, and the percentage of participants who had finished four years of college rose to 78 from 76.5."

Bloomberg - "Fannie, Freddie Face Pressure to Revamp as U.S. Aid Increases" (4-15-09)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are under pressure from lawmakers to revamp their operations as the mortgage-finance companies tap more government money to survive. Among the options under discussion are combining the companies, breaking them up or reshaping their missions."

Orange County Register - "Discounts increase at O.C. foreclosure auctions" (4-15-09)

" also reports that last month at foreclosure auctions, known as trustee’s sales, banks were willing to accept an average 34.4% discount on money owned on each property. That was up from a discount of 29.3% in February and 16.7% in March 2008."

Inman - "Fidelity raises rates, cuts costs" (4-15-09)

"Fidelity National Financial Inc. has raised title insurance rates in 22 states and slashed $231 million in annual expenses by firing workers and closing offices since acquiring the underwriting subsidiaries of rival LandAmerica Financial Group Inc. in December. In announcing plans to issue 13.3 million shares of common stock, Fidelity disclosed that through the end of March it had fired 2,068 of the 5,500 workers formerly employed by LandAmerica subsidiaries Commonwealth Land Title, Lawyers Title and United Capital Title Insurance Co."

Inman - "Report: Lenders blacklisted appraisers" (4-15-09)

"A nonprofit that specializes in investigative journalism says it's obtained copies of blacklists that lenders used during the housing boom to boycott thousands of appraisers who refused to inflate home values."
CBIA - "New-Home Sales Still Historically Slow in February, CBIA Announces" (4-14-09)

"The pace of home sales at California new-home communities continued to be historically slow during February but at least showed a modest improvement over January, the California Building Industry Association reported today. But Robert Rivinius, CBIA’s President and CEO, said he is confident March sales figures will show a significant increase due to the landmark California tax credit for new-home buyers that went into effect at the beginning of the month."

Wall Street Journal - "Older Borrowers, Out in the Cold" (4-14-09)

"As the government presses lenders to modify mortgages, a large subset of distressed borrowers is being left out: older homeowners on low fixed incomes. Many of them are now facing foreclosure, say legal-aid advocates and AARP attorneys, because they were sold loans they could never afford, often fraudulently."

Bloomberg - "Bernanke Sees Signs U.S. Contraction May Be Slowing" (4-14-09)

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said there are signs that the 'sharp decline' in the U.S. economy is slowing, indicating a potential 'first step' toward a recovery from the worst recession in a generation."

Bloomberg - "Fed Economists Say Mortgage Changes May Not Stem Foreclosures" (4-14-09)

Job losses and falling home prices have a bigger impact on delinquencies than mortgage terms, and modifications aren’t necessarily a better deal for investors than foreclosures, according to a paper by two current and one former economist at the Boston Fed Bank and one Atlanta Fed researcher."

Bloomberg - "GE’s 72% Post-Sherin Bounce Shifts Focus to Industrial Profit" (4-14-09)

General Electric Co.’s 72 percent stock surge since Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin went on television to debunk fears of a GE Capital 'time bomb' adds pressure on non-financial units to deliver profits this week."

Bloomberg - "Say Good-Bye to Fannie, Freddie as Housing Woes Wreck Status" (4-14-09)

Say good-bye to Fannie and Freddie as you know them. The bailed-out mortgage finance companies will emerge from their travails combined as one, broken up or with substantially reshaped missions, according to U.S. lawmakers and analysts."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Washington Post - "Foreclosure Sales Stalled by Red Tape" (4-13-09)

"As bargain hunters turn their attention to foreclosures, many are discovering the toughest challenge is dealing with the banks that repossessed the homes. These banks are usually quick to accept a bid and write a contract. But the closer buyers get to the settlement table, the greater the potential for bureaucratic bungling and the chance the buyers will give up. The housing market stands little chance of recovering until the foreclosures are sold. Distressed properties make up roughly a quarter of U.S. homes for sale. Moving them would go a long way toward stabilizing home prices. But working with the banks, which are typically based far from the homes they're selling, is not as simple as buying from a regular homeowner."

New York Times - "Houses, Decked Out for a Sale, Are Burglarized" (4-12-09)

"It is a common ploy here and elsewhere to have professional decorators 'stage' unoccupied homes that are on the market with borrowed furnishings and appointments to help fetch top dollar, especially now that real estate sales have wilted like a week-old flower arrangement. But along with fragrant jasmine and wisteria in bloom, there is caution in the air here. The same painstaking efforts to attract buyers have also attracted thieves."

Goldman Sachs 666 - "Is Goldman Sachs Manipulating the Stock Market? - It Sure Looks Like It" (3-13-09)

"There was a very interesting article on Zero Hedge the other day. In the data provided, I noticed that Goldman Sachs traded more for their Principal account than the next 14 firms COMBINED. And the next 14 were no slouches . . . Citi, JP Morgan UBS, Credit Suisse, Merrill, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, etc. I mention this because it seems a bit coincidental that the markets have skyrocket during this very same period, and Goldman Sachs' stock price has jumped more than 70% to just about back to where our dear friend Warren Buffet bought in. Their stock prices has more than doubled the performace of any of the US markets!"

CNBC - "One Big Bear Is Not Running With The Bulls" (4-13-09)

"Greene has made a killing going against conventional wisdom. As I've reported before, Greene began buying credit default swaps on mortgage backed securities in 2006, basically buying a form of insurance on bonds filled with subprime loans from California and Florida. He figured those bonds would fail, and when they did, he was in the money on his 'insurance'."

Dispatch Politics - "Are FHA loans next big risk?" (4-12-09)

"some experts warn of a new and growing danger: Federal Housing Administration mortgages, government-insured loans for people with shaky credit histories or little money for a down payment. The default rates on these loans are rising, and some fear that the same loose lending practices that fueled the subprime-mortgage mess are affecting FHA loans."

MSNBC - "What’s the tab for the bailout? Take your pick" (4-13-09)

"So far, cash commitments made by various bailout efforts — including the Treasury's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout and various lending programs by the Federal Reserve — are just shy of $3 trillion, Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for TARP, told the Senate Finance Committee March 31. But the net cost to taxpayers will be much lower — more like $356 billion in direct spending — according to an analysis published last month by the Congressional Budget Office."

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Chicago Tribune - "New jobless claims fall more than expected to 654K; continuing claims set 10th straight record" (4-9-09)

"New jobless claims fell more than expected last week but are stuck at elevated levels, while the number of people continuing to receive unemployment insurance approached 6 million, setting a record for the 10th straight week."

Los Angeles Times - "L.A. starts buying up foreclosed homes with federal aid" (4-9-09)

"Los Angeles is using its $33-million share of Neighborhood Stabilization Program money to refurbish homes as affordable rentals or for sale. Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan pays a visit Wednesday."

Bloomberg - "TARP Recipients Required to Modify Loans, HUD Says" (4-9-09)

Banks receiving federal aid through the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program must also take part in the government’s mortgage modification initiatives, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said."

Bloomberg - "Mortgage Rate in U.S. Rises to 4.87%, Freddie Says" (4-9-09)

Fixed U.S. mortgage rates rose last week, ending a four-week streak of declines driven by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s plan to boost the housing market in part by buying mortgage-backed securities."

Orange County Register - "Fees can boost a new home’s price by 30%" (4-9-09)

"Cities can charge up to $100,000 per unit in various building fees, in some cases that can be nearly 30% of the purchase price!"

Orange County Register - "California housing market seen near bottom (4-9-09)

"The bottom of the California housing market is occurring in terms of prices and the first half of 2008 for home sales. The great recession will continue through 3rd quarter and some positive GDP growth is predicted for 4th quarter 2009. A more convincing recovery willl be underway by mid-2010."

Orange County Register - "Wells Fargo projects record $3 billion profit" (4-9-09)

"Wells Fargo said today it expects a record net profit of $3 billion in the first quarter. That’s despite net charge offs, or ultimate losses on loans, of $3.3 billion, down from $6.1 billion in Q4, including losses from buying Wachovia."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

NAHB - "With Affordability Up, Home Buyers are Starting to Return to the Market" (4-7-09)

"Thanks to record low mortgage rates and declining home prices, 55 million families – or half of all U.S. households -- can afford today’s $200,000 median-priced new home, according to figures released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)"

CAR - "
Foreclosure-related sales double in select metros" (4-7-09)

"Radar Logic noted that the growth of motivated sales as a share of total transactions contributed to a 23 percent year-over-year decline in a composite price-per-square-foot index (the RPX index) for the 25 metro areas tracked from January 2008 to January 2009."

San Francisco Chronicle - "Banks aren't reselling many foreclosed homes" (4-7-09)

"In a recent study, RealtyTrac compared its database of bank-repossessed homes to MLS listings of for-sale homes in four states, including California. It found a significant disparity - only 30 percent of the foreclosures were listed for sale in the Multiple Listing Service. The remainder is known in the industry as 'shadow inventory.'"

Reuters - "Mortgage delinquencies soar in the U.S." (4-7-09)

"More U.S. consumers are falling behind on their mortgages, an indication that the housing market has yet to hit bottom, a top credit bureau executive told Reuters. Dann Adams, president of U.S. Information Systems for Equifax Inc, reported that 7 percent of homeowners with mortgages were at least 30 days late on their loans in February, an increase of more than 50 percent from a year earlier."

CNN - "Recovery hopes begin to blossom" (4-7-09)

"Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of Economic Cycle Research Institute, said the economy could be as close to four months away from a recovery. He says his firms' readings on long-term and short-term economic indicators give him significantly more hope that the economy is closer to a turnaround than he had thought even a month ago. Among the more than dozen different things his firm looks at are home prices, the jobs picture and stock prices."

Bloomberg - "AIG’s Bank Payments Probed by TARP Inspector General" (4-7-09)

The Treasury’s chief watchdog for the U.S. financial rescue program is probing whether American International Group Inc. paid more than necessary to banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. after the insurer’s bailout. Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, began an audit last week into whether there were attempts by New York-based AIG or the government to reduce the payments, according to an April 3 letter to Representative Elijah Cummings. The Maryland Democrat requested the probe last month along with 26 other members of Congress."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (4-8-09)

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 3, 2009. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 1250.6, an increase of 4.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 1194.4 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 4.9 percent compared with the previous week and 67.6 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

Bloomberg - "
Pulte to Buy Centex for $1.3 Billion in Survival Bid" (4-8-09)

Pulte Homes Inc. agreed to buy Centex Corp. for $1.3 billion in an all-stock deal that creates the largest U.S. homebuilder by revenue and throws each of them a lifeline in the worst housing decline since the 1930s."

CNN - "High yield REITs come with a warning" (4-8-09)

"Typically, investors seek out REITS for their stable, predictable cash flows and above-average dividend yields. Under REIT rules, companies avoid paying most corporate taxes as long as they distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders as dividends. And with the past year's market selloff, those dividends, which are typically paid quarterly, have become even more attractive."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Apartment Rents Decline as Vacancies Hit Five-Year High" (4-8-09)

U.S. apartment rents fell in the first quarter and the vacancy rate rose to a five-year high as job losses and falling incomes reduced demand, said Reis Inc. Vacancies climbed to 7.2 percent from 6 percent a year earlier and 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the New York-based research firm. Vacancies were at the same level as the first quarter of 2004, matching the highest since Reis began conducting its survey in 1999."

Bloomberg - "Credit-Default Swaps’ ‘Big Bang’ Loosens Banks’ Grip" (4-8-09)

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and the eight other banks that have dominated the credit-default swaps market for a decade are now ceding some power to their clients as regulators push for transparency."

Bloomberg - "Bank of America Needs $36.6 Billion, Oppenheimer Says" (4-8-09)

Bank of America Corp., the largest U.S. bank, needs to raise $36.6 billion in equity to bring capital ratios in line with its peers, according to Oppenheimer & Co."

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Wall Street Journal - "U.S. Plans to Combat Mortgage Fraud, Rescue Scams" (4-6-09)

"U.S. officials Monday trumpeted a multi-agency effort to combat a wave of mortgage-fraud and foreclosure-rescue scams. The announcement comes as the Obama administration is rolling out its plan to help as many as nine million homeowners obtain more affordable mortgages. The plan's success could be threatened by fraudulent schemes targeting borrowers trying to get out from under heavy mortgages."

Bloomberg - "California Foreclosures Jeopardize Renters as Banks Seize Homes" (4-6-09)

"In California, home to the most foreclosures in the country last year and about 5 million renter households, residents who are current on rent payments face eviction by banks unwilling to be landlords. At least one-third of the state’s 267,000 foreclosure sales in 2008 were rental units, said Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, a San Francisco-based non-profit group for renters’ rights."

Bloomberg - "Mayo Gives Banks ‘Underweight’ Rating on Loan Losses" (4-6-09)

CLSA analyst Mike Mayo assigned an 'underweight' rating to U.S. banks, saying loan losses may exceed Great Depression levels and the government may be forced to take over large lenders."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Sets ‘Aggressive’ Action to Fight Mortgage Fraud" (4-6-09)

The Justice Department, U.S. Treasury and other agencies said they are taking more aggressive action to confront 'bottom feeders' of the mortgage industry who prey on borrowers facing foreclosure. The efforts to combat fraudulent schemes that are promoted as official government programs include filing civil lawsuits, educating homeowners about mortgage-relief scams and directing borrowers to 'legitimate' counseling services, according to a statement today. The Housing and Urban Development Department, Federal Trade Commission and state officials are also involved."

Bloomberg - "General Growth Rises on Talk Bankruptcy Won’t Be Soon" (4-6-09)

General Growth Properties Inc. rose 35 percent in New York trading on speculation that debt holders won’t force the shopping-mall owner into bankruptcy soon, said Rich Moore, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets."

Orange County Register - "O.C. foreclosure market is ‘hot’" (4-6-09)

"Home market watcher Steve Thomas at Altera Real Estate in Aliso Viejo reports that the number of O.C. distressed properties (homes listed by agents as foreclosures or short sales) was 4,092 last week, down 581 vs. two weeks earlier or a -12.4% change."

Orange County Register - "Low pricing luring 1st-time homebuyers" (4-6-09)

"73% want to buy to take advantage of current housing prices vs. 60% who want bigger living space vs. 56% needing a more suitable place to start or raise family and 47% who are buying a home as an investment"

Seeking Alpha - "FHLB Chairman Quits Due to Discomfort with FASB Shifting Accounting Rules" (4-3-09)

"When the man in charge of the second largest borrower in the U.S. is willing to lose his job due to his discomfort with the FASB's shift in accounting rules, you can bet that the tragic fallout of all the 'market buoying' recent events is only a matter of time."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution - "Appraisers struggle to keep up with falling values" (4-5-09)

"Even though sales have tanked, Squier and Fries are still working long hours. They’re appraising homes for would-be borrowers who want to refinance and for financial institutions and government agencies selling foreclosed properties. But the job is getting much harder, appraisers say. They say nervous lenders are getting much stricter about how appraisers estimate property values, even as the slow pace of real estate sales shrinks the amount of available data."

The Washington Post - "Aid to Borrowers Not Preventing Rising Delinquency" (4-5-09)

"Mortgage lenders have boosted their foreclosure-prevention efforts, but homeowners nonetheless are increasingly falling into delinquency even after receiving help on their loans, according to a government report issued yesterday."

The Desert Sun - "Experts brace for new wave of foreclosures" (4-5-09)

"Rampant unemployment also means many formerly-stellar mortgage holders can no longer qualify to borrow any money, said Bruce Norris, founder of the Norris Group in Riverside. He told the North County Times that the current unemployment rate is almost 12 percent in the Riverside-San Bernardino county area. How many houses will tumble into foreclosure in the coming months is uncertain but the potential economic disruption is great, said Sorenson, who is being retained by the county to lead a series of classes for owners seeking to avoiding foreclosure."

The Market Oracle - "U.S. Real Estate Ownership and Investing Dangerous Myths" (4-5-09)

"The 4.7% increase is a dubious figure, as the Census Bureau admits this statistic has a margin of error of 18.3%. In effect, the numbers could be up 23% or down 13.6%, it's impossible to say. Even if new homes were easier to sell last month, one month doesn't make a trend. New home sales have plunged at a frightening rate, as buyers are incentivized to purchase much cheaper existing homes, especially those in foreclosure. History indicates new homes will bottom first, relatively early in the cycle. This doesn't mean prices have stopped falling, as the U.S. has more than 12 months inventory of unsold residences, a 36 year high. In fact, in my neighborhood builders are still constructing condos even with so many units unsold because they have already secured the loan. Whether they repay it or not is another question"

Friday, April 03, 2009

Los Angeles Times - "Signs indicate recession may be nearing a bottom" (4-3-09)

"New signs that the recession could be nearing a bottom emerged Thursday, as factory orders were far better than expected and the Dow industrials briefly surged over 8,000 for the first time in two months. The Commerce Department said orders for manufactured goods rose 1.8% in February, reversing six straight monthly declines and easily beating estimates of another drop. Other economic indicators came in better than expected Wednesday, including construction spending and pending home sales."

San Francisco Chronicle - "Report finds U.S. mortgage problems increasing" (4-3-09)

"The report covers about 34.7 million home loans, representing two-thirds of all outstanding U.S. mortgages. It looks at their performance during the fourth quarter of 2008, as well as the full year. Of all mortgages covered, at year-end slightly more than 10 percent were nonperforming, meaning behind on payments, compared to about 7 percent nonperforming in September."

Yahoo - "Fed 'extremely uncomfortable' about bailouts" (4-3-09)

"While acknowledging that the Federal Reserve was 'extremely uncomfortable' about last year's bailouts of big financial companies, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said Friday the central bank's strategy to ease the financial crisis is working."

CNN - "Signs of life in California real estate" (4-3-09)

"No state has been harder hit by the housing bust than California. It has piled up more foreclosures and has endured among the worst home-price declines. The median price of a single-family home sold in February was $247,590, down 41% from 12 months earlier, according to the California Association of Realtors (CAR). "

Yahoo - "Bailed-out banks may buy toxic assets: report" (4-3-09)

"U.S. banks that have received government aid, including Citigroup Inc, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co, are considering buying toxic assets to be sold by rivals under the Treasury's $1,000 billion plan to revive the financial system, the Financial Times said."

Bloomberg - "
Bernanke Easing Mortgage Rates for Consumer Rebound" (4-3-09)

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is delivering what he promised five months ago, record- low mortgage rates and a refinancing boom that’s putting cash in consumers’ pockets."

Bloomberg - "Office Vacancy Rate in U.S. Climbs to Four-Year High" (4-3-09)

U.S. office vacancy rates rose in the first quarter to the highest in almost four years as corporate job cuts reduced demand for space, property research firm Reis Inc. said."

Orange County Register - "O.C. condo pricing back at Sept. 2002 level" (4-3-09)

"$380,000 median selling price that is -25.3% vs. a year ago and -41% below June 2007’s peak of $645,000. Condo are offer by a third in a year — back to a level ($250,000) last seen in September 2002."

Orange County Register - "Forget dodging refinance fees" (4-3-09)

"Unlike the Fed setting the discount rate, long -term rates are set by the market. If the market drives rates to 4% or 5% or 6%, that’s what it will be. No one has ever legislated rates and that’s not going to happen any time soon. On March 18th, the 10-year T-bond yield dropped from about 2.95% to 2.55% in a matter of minutes. Mortgage rates followed. Bond Yields then increased for the next four days, standing at 2.70% recently. Mortgage rates are still below 5% today but you can see the volatility."