martedì 14 settembre 2010

Se non si vendono le case non si vende niente altro

Dalle colonne del Wall Street Journal  Gjerstad e Smith, partendo da un loro studio delle recessioni americane, traggono conclusioni scoraggianti sul futuro dell'economia U.S.A. Il problema principale è ancora il mercato immobiliare, che non riesce a riprendersi. E

If there is no recovery in housing expenditures, confirmed by a recovery in consumer durable goods expenditures, then there is no economic recovery.

In the Great Depression and in every recession since, recovery of residential construction has preceded recovery in every other sector, and its recovery has been far larger in percentage terms than the recovery in any other major sector.

Applied to the Great Recession, it appears that those who see signs of a recovery may be grasping at straws. What one should hope is that this time it is different from every one of the past 14 U.S. downturns, but those who believe this have the weight of past experience against them.

Secondo gli autori  la recessione del 2008-2009 si distingue dalle recessioni del dopoguerra per l'entità della distruzione apportata al sistema bancario e finanziario ma anche per la reattività con la quale i mercati hanno risposto agli stimoli provenienti dalla politica monetaria. Ciononostante anche questa recessione potrà dirsi completamente superata solo quando la ripresa sarà robusta anche nel mercato immobiliare, poichè questo settore  gioca un ruolo di primaria importanza nella catena di trasmissione degli effetti della politica monetaria al resto dell'economia. Qui purtroppo c'è poco da essere ottimisti:

The onset of and decline during this recession were like previous recessions, though its course has been deeper and longer. By quarter four of 2007, sales of new homes had fallen without interruption for nine straight quarters and expenditures on new residential construction had fallen for seven quarters—strong lead time signals of the looming distress. New home sales recovered briefly in 2009 but have now declined for three quarters. Residential construction expenditures have essentially been flat for five quarters. Consumer durables spending at best has stabilized, up slightly from its low in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The average increase in new residential construction in the first year following the previous 10 postwar recessions has been 26.3%. The largest increase in residential construction followed the 1981-82 recession, when it increased 75.5% as monetary policy was relaxed. In the past year, residential construction has increased 6.3%. This is the slowest rebound in residential construction in any sustained recovery from a postwar recession.

No currently debated policy will likely change this situation, as the market is saturated with foreclosed houses and homeowners suffer from $771 billion in negative equity. This fact needs to be confronted: We are almost surely in for a long slog.

Andy Kesser, scrivendo sul Wall Street Journal un paio di settimane fa, attribuiva una parte della responsabilità di questo stato deprimente del mercato immobiliare alla decisone di impiegare i fondi del TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) investendo nei titoli delle banche invece che acquistando i più tossici tra i derivati costruiti sul mercato dei mutui americano. Secondo Kesser:
It turns out they only bought time, not a recovery, and now we are paying for that mistake.
Despite all efforts, the deleveraging continues. The $862 billion Congressional stimulus didn't stimulate the economy because it went into unproductive projects. The Fed's $1.4 trillion quantitative easing/dollar printing sent 30-year mortgage rates to record lows, but not enough people are buying homes because home prices haven't fallen enough to clear the inventory. And with 9.5% unemployment and 18.4% underemployed, there are more sellers than buyers.
Home sales dropped 27% from a year ago July to a 3.83 million annual rate, which was blamed on the May expiration of the $8,000 home buyer's tax credit. Dig deeper and it's even scarier. Existing home inventory (the number of homes for sale) now stands at four million units—that's a 12.5-month supply versus the average 6.2-month supply since 1999. As late as 2005, home inventory was just 2.5 million. Using that as a baseline or normal number, there are now around 1.5 million "extra" homes on the market that are not selling and either empty or soon to be foreclosed.
And those toxic mortgage assets? As far as I can tell, most are still there, valued at "mark to wish" since the Financial Accounting Standards Board's relaxation of "mark to market" accounting rules. Who knows what they're really worth? The stock market is guessing not much, sending finance stocks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and even J.P. Morgan down close to 52-week lows. The Dow is once again flirting with 10,000. Money that had been flowing into stocks is now flowing into bond funds.
Wall Street smells a rat. Why? Because without a housing turnaround, jobs in construction, decoration, mortgage banking, auto sales and finance will stay in the doldrums. Delinquency rates, which are a leading indicator of foreclosures, are on the rise. According to the latest Mortgage Bankers Association survey, in the second quarter, prime adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) delinquency rates rose to 9.3%, with prime fixed-rate mortgages seeing delinquencies up 4.75%. On the subprime side, ARM delinquencies hit 30.9% with fixed at 22.5%.
This is not good for banks that still own toxic assets of any type of mortgage, subprime or not. If home prices fall further, and I can't see too many scenarios where they won't, these toxic assets are all set to drop in value. At some point, buyers of bank debt will get nervous. Think of these mortgage derivatives as soon to be nonperforming loans, the same ones that were a 20-year anchor dragging down Japan.

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