Richard Suttmeier: Home Prices Could Fall Another 50%

Home Short Sales Bring Real Estate Prices Down

The housing market continues to deteriorate.

Thursday’s report on May pending home sales was down 30% from the prior month and nearly 16% vs. a year ago.

The market weakness spans the country. Sales in the Northeast, Midwest and South fell more than 30%, the bright spot, the West, only fell 21%.The news comes after last week’s record low new home sales in May, which plummeted nearly 33%. Experts say the expiration of the new homebuyer tax credit is to blame for the sudden market softness.

Unfortunately, the market could get worse and prices could fall further, says Richard Suttmeier of ValuEngine.com. High unemployment and struggling community banks are two main causes. Saddled with bad housing and construction loans, local banks will continue to restrict lending.Plus, the failure of the Obama administration’s mortgage modification program means a steady flow of short sales. “People are going to be surprised when they see there have been short sales,” which negatively impact appraisals in the local community, says Suttmeier.How low can prices go?Using the S&P/Case-Shiller index as his guide, Suttmeier suggests homes across the country could lose half their value. “If it gets back, like stocks, back to the 1999-2000 levels, that’s another 50% down in home prices,” he says.

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Howard Davidowitz says, U.S. Economy is a Complete Disaster

The U.S. economy is in shambles and Americans will continue to see high unemployment and lower living standards in the years to come, Howard Davidowitz tells Henry and Aaron in the accompanying clip. Davidowitz lays much of the blame for the economy’s woes at the feet of the Obama administration, which he calls “the worst of my lifetime.”Obama “Mr. Mass Destruction”Davidowitz says that the key to Obama’s success is his ability to sell his policies to the public. He can confidently read from a teleprompter and appear competent and in control, when in reality, “it’s one big bag of empty words,” Davidowitz says of Obama’s messages.Davidowitz contends that the President’s spending, including the health-care bill, is creating massive deficits that will take the U.S. years to dig itself out of. “He is Mr. Mass Destruction,” Davidowitz says of Obama. “I mean he is a human destroyer. This guy has spent his way into oblivion and we don’t have a budget. He is surrounded by a bunch of complete incompetents, led by himself. “Housing GloomAs far as the actual economy goes, Davidowitz’s chief concern is the strained state of the housing market, from which the bad news continues to pour in. According to Davidowitz, Americans are facing an $8 trillion negative wealth effect from the bursting of the housing bubble.”We’re talking about some serious money here,” Davidowitz exclaims. “I mean this is a complete disaster and that’s why we are going to have a double dip. We’re guaranteed a double dip in housing.”Small Businesses and UnemploymentDavidowitz says that the job market is also in ruins, noting for every new job there are six applicants. As a result of the intense competition for positions, employers can offer lower wages. Young people entering the work force today can expect to make less money in their lifetime than previous generations. Considering the majority of new jobs are created by small businesses, Davidowitz argues that new regulations governing loans to small businesses are only making matters worse — both for the entrepreneurs and the millions of people out of work.”We have this insane new regulation,” Davidowitz says. “Community banks will not even be able to fill out the forms. They’ll pack up and quit. They’re already underwater. Commercial real estate is still terrible.” The Future a Massive StruggleAsked whether he thought the U.S. would experience another Great Depression, Davidowitz said the coming years will look more like Japan today vs. the U.S. in the 1930s.People will be making and spending less money and the nation as a whole will be dealing with the consequences of the deficit, he says. “We are in a struggle, day by day it’s ugly. At the core, when we look at our debt, we are going to have to deal with it.”A few months ago, while other analysts claimed that the economy would continue to follow a V-shaped recovery path, Davidowitz seemed out of step by insisting the nation’s problems were still dire. Regardless of what you think of his message or style, Davidowitz’s doom and gloom outlook now appears much more credible.

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Value-Added Tax (VAT) – What You Need to Know

Hey – you know we have a debt crisis, right?

A VAT could reduce the deficit and its announcement would signal to foreign investors that we’re serious about deficit reduction, reducing our long-term interest rates and making it easier to borrow.

a VAT is Coming Soon

President Barack Obama’s bipartisan commission to fix our long-term deficit crisis held its first meeting on April 27. But a couple of weeks ago, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a symbolic measure rejecting an important tool to restore fiscal sanity to the budget: the value-added tax. To which you might respond: a what?

Americans like to think of our country as exceptional. Our tax system certainly is. The United States is the world’s only developed nation without a national broad-based consumption tax. As a result, our taxes hit income harder than most countries. Nearly 38 percent of our overall tax take comes from the individual income tax. The OECD average is 25 percent.

As our gaping deficit commands more attention in Washington, some lawmakers and policy gurus are talking about making America a little less exceptional by creating a national consumption tax. That sounds scary. So let’s back up and explain some things about a value-added tax, or VAT: why we might need it, how it would work, and what liberals and conservatives are saying about it.

Here’s why we need it: If you think the deficit looks bad now, wait a few years. Rising health care costs for retired baby boomers will push U.S. debt levels past their World War II-levels. But whereas WWII ended and we owed that debt to ourselves, our entitlement system is woven into American life and we owe half the resulting debt to foreign countries. Approaching this challenge will require some combination of robust growth, spending cuts, entitlement reform and more tax revenue.

Where should this tax revenue come from? There are three reasonable sources. First, some revenue should come from cleaning out the underbrush of special interest deductions and exemptions that hide hundreds of billions of dollars from taxes. But every tax code in the world molds to the interests of the public, and dramatically reducing these carve-outs is unlikely. Second, some revenue should come from higher income taxes on the rich, whose total tax rates have fallen consistently over the last 40 years — while spending grew. But higher taxes on the rich alone won’t close the deficit. That brings us to revenue-source number three: we will have to raise taxes on lower- and middle-class families, and the VAT is probably the most efficient, most equitable, and most non-distortionary way to do it.

So what is a value-added tax, anyway? What it sounds like: a consumption tax on the “value added” at each stage of production. Here’s how that works: Imagine a $1 loaf of bread you buy from the supermarket with a VAT of 10%. You’ve got a farmer, a baker, and a supermarket in the production chain. The farmer grows the wheat and sells it to the baker. The baker makes a loaf, sells it to the supermarket. The supermarket sells the loaf to me. Each link on the production chain pays the government 10% of the price of its product minus 10% of the price it paid for the goods to make that product. Ultimately, the government collects a total of 10 cents on the $1 loaf. At the supermarket, I pay the bread price plus the VAT: $1.10.

Maybe that sounds complicated. But it’s actually much easier to collect VAT than a national retail sales tax because there is a counterparty to every transaction. The baker can try to avoid paying her share of VAT. But the government will see that the supermarket reported the purchase of her bread, and it can go to the baker and say “you forgot to report your sales.” With the individual income tax, we ask the IRS to police tax evaders. With a VAT, the production chain helps to police itself.

For most Americans, this is all happening under the hood. All we would see are higher prices and less overall consumption. Who could want such a thing?

Maybe all of us. Remember that debt crisis? A VAT could reduce the deficit and its announcement would signal to foreign investors that we’re serious about deficit reduction, reducing our long-term interest rates and making it easier to borrow. What’s more, if a tax on consumption discourages some consumption, it might encourage Americans to save more, which might not be such a bad thing considering an avalanche of consumer debt added to the last recession.

Finally, the politics. Conservatives and liberals have different objections to the VAT, but many of them are misguided. Conservatives don’t like the VAT because it’s an efficient, invisible tax — a “money machine.” But one look at our deficit projections is enough to tell you that we need a money machine, as Reagan economic adviser Bruce Bartlett wrote. Conservatives also worry that “invisible” taxes like a VAT would enable the government to grow bigger. The evidence does not agree. “Tax visibility is empirically unrelated to the amount of taxation and government spending,” economist Casey Mulligan concluded.

On the other side, liberals worry that a tax on consumption will hit the poorest the hardest, because lower-income Americans spend more of what they make. But policy makers could solve this regressivity in many ways. Most simply, pairing the VAT with a tax credit for poorer families could actually make the tax progressive. They could also spare some common products from the VAT (indeed, no country’s VAT extends over the entire economy, and realistically an American VAT would probably hit only about a third of GDP). Lawmakers would also probably introduce a VAT in exchange for some combination of cuts to income, payroll, or corporate taxes.

Of course, a VAT could take years to set up and special interests would carve it up with exemptions, just as they have for the rest of the tax system. But there are reasons for both liberals and conservatives to support the VAT. Conservatives want a tax system with a broader base and lower marginal rates. Liberals want to protect programs like Medicare and education spending with new taxes that don’t overburden lower-income families. A VAT would serve both interests.

by Derek Thompson
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

U Shaped or Double Dip – Economic Risks Are Rising

U.S. Growth Outlook:  Still Anemic and U-Shaped but Risks of a Double-Dip Recession Are Rising

by Nouriel Roubini

A slew of poor economic data over the past two weeks suggests that the U.S. economy in 2010 is headed for – at best – a U-shaped recovery. The macro news, including data on consumer confidence, home sales, construction and employment, actually suggests a significant downside risk even to the anemic 2.7% growth which RGE forecast for H1. With the positive effects of the historic levels of fiscal stimulus due to fade this year, the U.S. faces at best a 1.5% growth rate in H2, which looks too close for comfort to a tipping point of a double-dip recession.

Robert Prechter sees “The Biggest Bubble in History”

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Delinquent Mortgages Hit Record 15%

  • The percentage of loans that were in foreclosure or behind at least one payment hit 15.02%, the most since MBA’s records began in 1972.   Foreclosures will likely stay high in 2010.
  • Real estate Web site Zillow.com recently said one in five homeowners were underwater in Q4!!
  • 4.5 million foreclosure filings are expected this year, up from 2.8 million in 2009.
  • “The bulk of foreclosures are coming in spring and summer, and we do expect home prices to continue falling through the end of this year,” said Celia Chen, director of housing economics at Moody’s Economy.com.

Are We On The Verge Of Total Global Economic Collapse?

Are we on the verge of total economic collapse?Don’t laugh. The french firm Societe Generale thinks so.The brokerage firm has put the fear of God in clients recently by predicting that developed economies and markets are going to collapse under a monster debt load and that gold is going to soar to $6,000 an ounce.Fortunately, not everyone feels that way. Many on Wall Street, in fact, have suddenly gotten quite bullish after missing a lot of the extraordinary 65% rally we’ve had since the lows of March. Hopefully, these folks–the “V-shaped recovery” crowd–are right, and the bad news of the last couple of years will soon be a distant memory.Aaron and I are skeptical, though. The aftermath of debt-fueled financial crises like the one we went through usually lasts for many years, if not decades. Japan has been struggling to right its ship since its own bubble burst in 1990, and the country still isn’t growing strongly again. (Japan’s stock market, meanwhile, trades at a fifth of its 1989 high).With luck, we won’t end up like Japan–or the SocGen scenario. We doubt, however, that the economy and markets will just shrug off the last year as if nothing serious happened.If you’re curious, you can see highlights of the SocGen report here:SocGen: Prepare Yourself For the Worst Case Scenario

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