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  • Thu, Mar 4 2010
  • 5:35 PM » Don't Buy Realtors' Weather Excuse
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 5:35 PM by CNBC
    Today the National Association of Realtors reported an unexpected 7.6 percent monthly drop in its Pending Homes Sales Index in January.
  • 5:35 PM » Range of Snow Impact on Jobs: Negligible to 220,000; Have Your Snow Job Decoder Ring Handy?
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 5:35 PM by Google News
    Having read , inquiring minds just might be asking "What is the range of estimates given by economists for the impact of February blizzards?" February 28, 2010 Please consider Payrolls probably fell by 50,000 after declining 20,000 in January, according to the median forecast of 62 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the Labor Department’s March 5 report. “Even leaving aside the effects of inclement weather, the economy still appears to be shedding jobs,” said Aaron Smith, a senior economist at Moody’s in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Although businesses have stopped cutting inventories and are beginning to invest more, they have been more hesitant to increase their hiring.” “The weather will certainly play a role,” said Raymond Stone, managing director and an economist at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Skillman, New Jersey, who projects payrolls will be reduced by as many as 200,000 because of the storms. His overall forecast is for a decline of 150,000 and he referenced a snow-related payroll drop in January 1996. March 3, 2005 All that snow talk got economists to revise their forecasts. On February 28, the estimate was -50,000. The jobs estimate is now -65,000. Please consider Amid signs that the U.S. economic recovery is about to start creating jobs, the influence of bad weather will make the government’s February employment report difficult to decipher, economists said. The world’s largest economy probably lost 65,000 jobs last month, more than triple the 20,000 drop in January payrolls, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the Labor Department’s March 5 report. Snow in parts of the country that caused some businesses to temporarily close during the government’s survey week may potentially depress the payroll count by as much as 220,000 workers, according to Joel Prakken at Macroeconomic Advisers LLC. One thing is certain, the Labor Department will not precisely quantify the storms...
  • 3:46 PM » Greece Cuts, Germany says "no aid", IMF Next?
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 3:46 PM by Calculated Risk Blog
    From the Financial Times: Mr Papandreou said that the latest austerity package ... fulfilled Greece’s commitment to its eurozone partners ... “We are waiting for European support – the other side of the agreement,” Mr Papandreou said ... he told ministers that Greece could turn to the IMF for an emergency loan if its EU partners were unable to deliver adequate assistance ... excepted with permission And from Bloomberg: “We have fulfilled to the utmost all that we must from our side; now it’s Europe’s turn,” Papandreou told his ministers yesterday, according to an e-mailed transcript. “It is a historic moment for the European Union.” ... “I expressly want to say that Friday isn’t about aid commitments, but about good relations between Germany and Greece,” [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] said yesterday in an interview with N-TV ... The story remains fluid, and a key date is March 16th when the euro-zone finance ministers meet.
    Click Here to Read the Full Article

    Source: Calculated Risk Blog
  • 3:46 PM » Fannie Keeps the Mortgage Market Off-Balance
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 3:46 PM by
    Fannie’s Monday announcement giving details about the impending “catch-up” buyouts of delinquent loans may have been intended to calm the passthrough market. It didn’t. The disclosure, which projected the volume capacity and intended priority of the buyouts, did go a long way towards helping the market value current and future months pricing for premiums. But we think significant price discrepancies still exist in front-month rolls and swaps; we also think Gold-Fannie swaps don't at all reflect longer-term differences in credit quality and involuntary prepayments.
    Click Here to Read the Full Article

  • 12:40 PM » In Search of an Economist for Fed Board: Prestige, Power… and a Pay Cut
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 12:40 PM by WSJ
    The retirement of Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Don Kohn has the Obama administration searching for economists to fill one or more of the three openings of the seven-member Fed board. Among the possibilities for the vice chairman slot are a couple of alumni of the Greenspan Fed board: , who has been president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco since 2004, and , a private, Washington-based Fed watcher. You may have to take a pay cut, but you get to work in the Fed building in Washington. (Getty Images) Among other names surfacing: , a Princeton University labor economist who is now assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, and , a Harvard University finance professor who did a brief turn in the Obama administration last year. Yellen and Krueger both did stints in the Clinton administration: Yellen as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and Krueger as the chief Labor Department economist. , the Obama appointee to the Fed board, seems to prefer being the Fed’s banking czar to the vice chairman’s duties. And word is that , the economic historian on leave from Berkeley to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers, isn’t interested in a move to the Fed. Kohn’s retirement, at age 67, leaves Chairman Ben Bernanke the only economist on the Fed board. Elevating a Fed staffer to the Board is an option. Among the possibilities: , chief of the Fed’s Division of Monetary Affairs, a post Kohn once held; , research director at the San Francisco Fed who would be a contender for Yellen’s job if she left; and , the Boston Fed’s research director. One rub for some potential candidates: The pay cut. The law sets the salary of members of the Federal Reserve Board — and the vice chairman — at $179,700 a year, which sounds like a nice wage to the typical American worker, but is lower than many potential nominees currently earn. That could pose a problem in recruiting for the three openings on the seven-member board. Salaries for presidents of the...
  • 12:40 PM » February Sales: How Retailers Fared
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 12:40 PM by WSJ
    Many large retailers reported their February sales numbers this week, with most of them coming out the morning of Thursday, March 4. Following , Wal-Mart and its units no longer publish monthly sales figures. Updates to come as more retailers report sales. (Last updated March 4, 2010) Sort the chart below by company name, category, change in total or same-store sales, and total sales. Also, see Company name Category Same-store sales change Overall sales change Overall sales (millions) Comments Abercrombie & Fitch Apparel 5% 16% $198.1 The namesake Abercrombie & Fitch stores posted an 8% jump in sales, while abercrombie kids rose 11%. Hollister reported a more subdued 1% gain. Aeropostale Apparel 7% 15% $126.4 The company announced that a 3-for-2 stock split on all shares of its common stock will be effected in the form of a stock dividend will become effective on March 5, 2010.. BJ’s Discount 3.9% 13% $755.2 The company reported disappointing earnings for its fourth quarter yesterday. BJ’s noted strength in February coinciding with the week of the Super Bowl. The strongest sales increases were in the Southeast and Upstate New York. The smallest increases were in the Mid-Atlantic and Metro New York regions. Excluding sales of gasoline, traffic increased by approximately 3% and the average transaction amount increased by approximately 1%. (Same-store sales change excludes gasoline.) Costco Discount 2% 9% $5,610 Costco yesterday posted disappointing earnings results. The company is selling more merchandise at lower prices, but results are being bolstered by higher gas sales. (Same-store sales change is for U.S. and excludes gasoline.) Gap Apparel 3% 5% $838 The discount Old Navy stores posted a 5% increase in sales, while the high-end Banana Republic chain experienced a 6% jump. Flagship Gap stores posted flat same-store sales from a year earlier. Hot Topic Apparel -7% -5.3% $54.2 The Torrid brand posted an 8.5% gain in same-store sales, but the flagship Hot Topic...
  • 12:40 PM » New Mexico Governor Signs Appraisal Management Company Legislation into Law - Puts AMCs "On Notice"!
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 12:40 PM by Google News
    Re-Blogged from the Appraisal Institute's : New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed Senate into law March 1. S.B. 138 will require that appraisal management companies post a surety bond or equivalent means of security with the Regulation and Licensing Department in order to operate in the state. The legislation will also require AMC employees who review appraisals be geographically competent to complete the review. See references to this bill on Appraisal Scoop - S.B. 138 also adopts fee disclosure requirements that are very similar to those adopted by the Federal Housing Administration in late 2009. Furthermore, it prohibits AMCs from including “hold harmless” provisions in their contracts with appraisers, or from requiring appraisers to indemnify the AMC against liability. Minda McGonagle, lobbyist for the Rio Grande Chapter in Santa Fe, said, “This is a big step forward in requiring that AMCs are more responsible to consumers for the product they play a huge role in producing. Hopefully, the AMCs and the lenders that use them will be answering tougher questions from consumers. We could not have been successful if not for the support of New Mexico’s real estate sales professionals, mortgage bankers, credit unions and community banks.” The provisions of the new law will become effective on July 1. A final version is not yet available, but previous versions of the legislation can be viewed at . Re-Blogged from the Appraisal Institute's
  • 8:46 AM » Feds Help Speed Up Your Mortgage Modification
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 8:46 AM by Google News
    The latest spin on government-sponsored mortgage modifications, demands that home owners provide an initial package of documents before the first phase of a modification can begin.
  • 8:33 AM » Greece draws strong bond demand at high price
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 8:33 AM by Reuters
    ATHENS/BERLIN (Reuters) - Debt-burdened Greece drew strong demand for a crucial bond issue on Thursday but paid a steep risk premium that underscored its plea to Germany and other EU partners for support to help lower its borrowing costs.
  • 8:32 AM » Unemployment Benefits: One Month Extension of Final Date
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 8:32 AM by Calculated Risk Blog
    Just an update: was signed into law last night. Extends the final date for entering a federal-state agreement under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program through April 5, 2010. From Ron Scherer at the : The extension means if an individual was about to exhaust their state benefits and about to exhaust a tier of emergency unemployment compensation, they are eligible to apply to move up to the next tier. However, if an individual is about to exhaust their final tier or extended benefits, this will not help them. “This does not add more weeks of benefits, it just extends the deadline in which people can qualify for either Emergency Unemployment Compensation or extended benefits,” says Judy Conti of NELP in Washington. The 30-day extension of the benefits will cost the federal government about $10 billion. I wonder how many people have exhausted all of their unemployment benefits?
    Click Here to Read the Full Article

    Source: Calculated Risk Blog
  • 8:31 AM » States: Delinquent Mortgages vs. Unemployment Rate
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 8:31 AM by Calculated Risk Blog
    The BLS the annual average state unemployment rates today. Here is a scatter graph comparing the delinquency rate for mortgage loans (including all loans in foreclosure) vs. unemployment rate for all states as of Q4 2009. Click on graph for larger image in new window. There definitely is a relationship between delinquency rates and the unemployment rate, although some states stand out (like Florida), because of state specific foreclosure laws. Arizona and Nevada also have higher than expected foreclosure rates - possibly because of high investor activity during the housing bubble. This does suggest that a large part of the delinquency problem is related to the unemployment problem. Imagine if there were no unemployment benefits. As Mark Thoma noted yesterday, , but one benefit he didn't mention is that it keeps households in place. Even though there is a relationship between the unemployment rate and the delinquency rate, I suspect the trend line would be steeper without unemployment benefits (so there would be even more delinquencies as the unemployment rate rises without benefits). Here is a sortable table to find the data for each state (use scroll bar to see all data).
    Click Here to Read the Full Article

    Source: Calculated Risk Blog
  • 8:31 AM » Monster Employment Index Points to Jobs Growth
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 8:31 AM by WSJ
    The Monster Employment Index surged in February, with increases across a range of geographies and job categories, suggesting that employers are starting to emerge from a long hibernation. The Index, compiled by online job service, grew to 124 from 114, the highest reading since December 2008 and the largest month-over-month increase since the company compiled began the index in 2003. The Monster Index is compiled from jobs posted on a number of employment sites including In February, job advertisements rose in 15 of the 20 sectors tracked by the index, including telecommunications, finance and scientific and technical services. Those numbers are not seasonally adjusted, meaning that declines in categories including entertainment and retail trade were, at least in part, due to seasonality. “We’re definitely seeing a difference to what we’ve seen in months prior,” said Jeff Quinn, director of research at “Companies are out there posting, and I assume they’re not posting for jobs where they don’t want to hire.” Job listings increased in all Census regions and every state, the survey said. By adjusting the number of online help-wanted ads for total working population, the Monster Employment Index had the following state ranking for per-capita online job availability in February: 1: Alaska 2: Delaware 3: Montana 4: Virginia 5: Rhode Island 6: Maryland 7: Connecticut 8: Vermont 9: Wyoming 10: Massachusetts
  • 8:31 AM » Borrowers Not Borrowing: What It Really Means for the Economy
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 8:31 AM by Seeking Alpha
    submits: This headline on the front of the Wall Street Journal Wednesday caught my eye: "Borrowers Pass Up Mortgage Windfall." Interestingly, the digital edition ran the with a different headline: "Borrowers Miss Out on Billions in Savings." These two very different headlines for the same story tell an interesting tale. There's a big difference between "pass up" and "miss out." The first suggests that borrowers are rejecting the opportunity to refinance; the second suggests they simply can't qualify for refinancing. That the Journal ran both reveals the current debate about whether banks or borrowers are to blame for the current dearth of credit creation. It's important to try to distinguish between the two because many are accusing the banking industry for the lack of credit creation when there is ample evidence that borrowers simply don't want to borrow any more. If banks are really the problem then there are many ways that Washington and the Fed can give them incentive to lend to help stimulate the economy. But if borrowers simply don't want or need any more debt then there are massive implications for the economy.
    Click Here to Read the Full Article

    Source: Seeking Alpha
  • 8:31 AM » 2009 Lending Down 9.5 Percent; Largest Drop in 40 Years
    Published Thu, Mar 04 2010 8:31 AM by
    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said that lending by U.S. banks fell by $587 billion in 2009, down 7.5 percent from 2008. According to analysis relayed in the Washington Post Feb. 24, that figure marks the largest yearly decline since the 1940s. Moreover, 702 banks spent 2009 classified as “at risk of failure” – an increase of 64 percent from 2008. Lending to individuals declined at a modest rate, but construction and development lending have fallen the most, down 23.6 percent, followed by business lending, down 18.3 percent.
    Click Here to Read the Full Article

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