Monday, July 31, 2006


We have been reading about the housing bubble and the consequences when it pops. Dean Baker says it has started: The Coming Housing Crash at Tom Paine.
[. . .]

The exact course going forward will depend to a large extent on how rapidly interest rates rise, but the basic plot is easy to see. With housing construction still far outpacing the growth in households, there will be a further build-up of inventories. In addition, many people who had been holding homes in anticipation of price rises will rush to sell, now that the market is headed downward. The supply of housing will be increased further by duress sales by people who cannot afford the jump in monthly payments on their adjustable rate mortgages. In addition, the rapidly rising foreclosure rate means that many financial institutions will be auctioning off repossessed homes.

The increase in mortgage delinquencies and defaults is likely to put considerable pressure on financial institutions that are heavily involved in home mortgages. Given the poor quality of many recent loans, some collapses of major financial institutions are virtually inevitable.

The decline in housing prices will sharply limit the extent to which people can borrow against their home to support their consumption. This will cause savings to rebound from their current negative rates to more normal levels—at 6 to 8 percent of disposable income—but will be associated with a sharp falloff in consumption.

Together these effects virtually guarantee a recession, and probably a rather severe recession. Even worse, there is no easy route to recovery from a recession that results from a collapse of a housing bubble, just as there was no easy route to recover from the stock crash induced recession of 2001. Greenspan used the housing bubble to recover from that crash, because he saw no other mechanism. Unless Bernanke can find some other bubble to inflate, the recovery may be a long slow process. It took Japan almost 15 years to recover from the crash of its stock and housing bubbles.

Read the whole thing. It is short.


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