Real estate agent Dave Gervase latterly witnessed a startling vision : a bidding war for a home in South Florida. What Gervase saw was an intense example of a national phenomenon : appearances of life in the battered home market and the overall economy. Housing costs rose 2.9% from the 1st quarter to the second the 1st quarterly increase in 3 years, Standard & Poor’s reported Tues. , In the meantime , a business group announced Tues. that among symptoms of economic improvement, consumer confidence reflected back this month.
The SP / Case-Shiller Home Price Index and the Meeting Board’s consumer confidence index were the newest reports to proffer the US economy is amazing toward recovery. The progress is painful, and many normal folks will not see the payoff for a bit. The Congressional Budget Office expects unemployment to rise from July’s 9.4% and average double digits next year. But for all of the provisos, the symptoms of recovery strike many economic experts as a great relief.
15, the US and the world appeared to be teetering on the fringe of a second Great Depression. And some say the improving outlook absolves the assertive actions taken since last Q4 by Fed. Reserve Manager Ben Bernanke.
A student of the business cataclysm of the 1930s, he slashed IRs to nil and pumped loads of billions into the fiscal system. Taking time off his holiday in Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, the president voiced Tues. that he would reappoint Bernanke when his first four-year term as Fed CEO expires in Jan. “Ben approached a monetary system on the edge of collapse with calm and knowledge ; with bold action and outside-the-box thinking which has helped applied the brakes on our business free fall,” Obama declared. Bernanke “has done a first-rate job,” asserts SP economic guru David Blitzer. “The hazards were awesome, and the Federal Agency had to step in.
“If he had not acted as belligerently and creatively as he did, we’d still be in a recession, and we’d be talking about a depression. Even so, the economy is a long, long way from a complete recovery, and Bernanke has masses of critics. The Congressional Budget Office envisions business output will fall 1% this year and unemployment will average 10.2% in 2010. Housing costs are still down 30 percent from their 2006 top, household incomes are shrinking, companies are still cutting roles and consumer confidence is struggling back from rock-bottom levels. Critics say Bernanke was slow to see difficulty brewing, as President Bush’s chief commercial confidant in 2005 and as Fed head honcho. By not moving quicker to deal with the economy’s slide, Bernanke made “a large, large mistake,” claims Dean Baker, co-director of the left-leaning Center for Industrial and Policy Research in Washington D.C. “And thousands of people are suffering for it.
But after the Lehman Bros.’ collapse sent the global economy into a tailspin last Q4, Bernanke sprang into action. He pushed the rate that banks charge one another for short term loans as low as zero and kept it there ; and he revealed rare plans to pump up to $1.75 trillion into parched monetary markets by purchasing executive debt and mortgage-backed stocks.
He kept investment banks afloat with billions in loans and made unusual money infusions into the inter-bank lending market and the commercial paper market that firms depend on for short term financing. “It stopped the plumbing from backing up,” announces Bruce Kasman, chief economic expert at JPMorgan Chase.
The idea was to get credit flowing and, together with Obama’s $787 bn. stimulus program, jump-start the stalled economy.
Economic production rose in July for the 1st time in 9 months. “We could barter as to whether it’s June, July or Aug the recession ends.”. Even the housing market seems to be recuperating from a three-year bloodbath. Home costs rose in 18 of the twenty towns tracked by the SP / Case-Shiller index from May to June.
Month-to-month comparisons can be untrustworthy and overall costs are about where they were in early 2003. Still, “The numbers are enlightening us costs could have already hit bottom,” claims Patrick Newport, financial consultant at IHS Worldwide Understanding . They generally tend to tighten their belts if they owe the bank more than their home is worth. “Everyone is awfully wary, and there’s unstableness in employment,” announces Jackie Williams, a real estate broker in Middletown, Conn. “But folk will spend if ( their home is worth ) a fair cost. Consumer confidence will build a little. Ryan Burns and his wife are renters in Bellingham, Wash, now, and their lease is sort of up. “We were thinking about extending our lease another 6 to 12 months to pack away a larger down payment,” Burns says. “But if costs are on the increase, we would just speed up our search.
Less poisonous assets on the books for banks. Rising home costs are an elixir for banks stricken with controversial mortgage loans and foreclosed property. “It improves the balance sheet of the bank. Which will hasten the end of the credit crunch,” asserts Joel Naroff, of Naroff Commercial counsellors. “Do I believe it will occur extraordinarily fast? No.
Moody’s Zandi expects the home market to be depressed this winter when banks auction off foreclosed property. Banks have delayed the sales, he claims, while trying to work out how to be accepted for a central authority program to change uneasy mortgages ; ultimately, the repos will continue. Other state programs may be providing an one off boost.
An $8,000 tax credit for first-time house purchasers ends November thirty. “Once this credit expires,” Newport writes, “home sales, housing starts and home prices will get hit. An uptick in costs “is encouraging,” Blitzer asserts, “but ecstatic days aren’t here again in the real estate business. If you purchased a place at precisely the incorrect point in Miami or Vegas or Phoenix, say in 2006, you are not going to sell it for that sort of money for a long time.
Even the South Florida house that drew twenty-four offers was a special case : An owner who owed more than the house was worth, was working with a bank to sell it for $65,000 less than the mortgage.
Critics also fret that Bernanke and the Federal Agency will fail to keep inflation in order once the economy picks up strength.
Except for now, many economic gurus say Bernanke’s outrageous intervention has averted disaster. “Given where we are now and where we come from, he’s been vindicated,” Blitzer says. “My guess is that 5 years from now, he will continue to be vindicated.