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The Biggest Obstacle: Record Shadow Housing Inventory, And How Obama May Have Just Popped The Consumer Spending Bubble


While today’s foreclosure settlement deal is by some accounts expected to help the housing market, as the foreclosure pipeline is once again unclogged, it is unclear what this will actually do for price discovery and clearing levels when one considers the already untenable shadow housing inventory, which can be summarized simply as follows - excess supply. It is this overhang that has to clear before there is any hope for incremental demand interest. And since mortgage rates are already at record low levels, and only an MBS QE could do much to stimulate even lower rates (which has its own set of adverse consequences), it is now obvious that from a purely psychological standpoint as long as people expect rates to decline in the future, they will not commit to a new home loantoday. What makes it even worse is that the excess inventory has to be literally burned to the ground for regular market clearing to resume. Unfortunately, as the following chart from JPM shows very vividly, the burning will have a long way to go: the most recent shadow housing inventory is now at an all time high. Think today’s action will do anything to help the housing market? Think again – if anything it will simply see the number of foreclosed properties explode. Rather, what it will do, is finally redirect discretionary spending from all the squatters who have lived mortgage free in their houses for years back into mandatory spending such as rent and mortgage bills. For those unclear, recall this post quantifying the benefit of the squatter economy (i.e., non paid rental/mortgage payments going into discretionary spending) – kiss that $50 billion inflow into GDP goodbye. Paradoxically, by trying to fix housing, Obama may have just popped the consumer discretionary bubble, of which the biggest beneficiary is that one certain fruit-shaped company…

- ZH

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