Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tom Keene's Housing-Related Program Yesterday On Bloomberg

Bloomberg's Tom Keene continues to slip in my estimation with almost every program of his that I view. His guests are of uneven quality, and Keene tends to project this naivete that makes you wonder if he's really up to cross-examining his guests. I'm guessing not.

Yesterday he had two women guests discussing the US housing situation. First was, I believe, Laurie Goodman, a principal with an asset manager.

Goodman declined to attribute responsibility for how we came to have 20% of all mortgages in existence five years ago now delinquent, and 23% of all US mortgages underwater.

Keene was totally in love with a trend chart purporting to illustrate that job growth was dependent upon housing, so without housing growth, the US economy is dead. He never questioned whether perhaps this had been a short-term (only a decade or so, I believe) and artificial correlation that is, in fact, unhealthy for the US economy.

Goodman sensibly said that thing will get better as new construction stops, thus forcing the huge foreclosure overhang to be worked off. And that two other events need to occur.

One, which Lew Ranieri explained over six months ago on CNBC, is the appearance of a government program allowing local investors to buy foreclosed properties and rent them. The second is to process as many foreclosures as possible in order to eliminate the old, high costs bases and allow new owners to buy at market prices.

She added that lending for these new mortgages is stalled, presenting a stumbling block.

The second guest, Stephanie Meyer, now with BofA Merrill Lynch, echoed Goodman's sentiments. She was clear about the need for foreclosures to move along and allow repricing of housing stock.

Interestingly, and another incident of Keene's failure to adequately question his guests, neither woman, nor Keene touched on the political issue of dumping so many existing delinquent homeowners out of their homes. That the current administration is trying to prevent this by threatening 'cramdowns' and such forcible taking of investor value to reward delinquent homeowners.

Disappointing, too, was Keene's failure to challenge whether the housing sector should ever have become so central to the US economy, and whether its removal of mobility for homeowners was a mistake in our modern economy?

Still, the raw information from these two guests concerning what would move the housing sector forward was refreshing.

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