iOS app Android app More

Housing Market's Lame Comeback: Seven And A Half Things To Know

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/27/2012 8:09 am Updated: 04/27/2012 8:09 am

Housing Market Comeback

Because your cards and letters demanded it, there's finally a video game that teaches you everything you need to know about Jay-Z's life. For the time being, here are seven and half other things you need to know, though perhaps slightly less:

Thing One: Housing's Sort-Of Comeback: As you may have heard, the U.S. housing market has been a Boschian hellscape for more than six years now, the payback for those crazy years of a housing bubble that featured bidding wars and silly prices. Well, good news, America, the crazy is back!

At least half of it, anyway: The Wall Street Journal reports that there are bidding wars again on houses, at least some houses, all over the country, or at least some parts of the country. And these bidding wars do not result in silly prices so much as they leave homeowners in slightly less deep holes: "Even though bidding wars are pushing prices higher, many homes are still selling for prices far lower than a few years ago."

But wait, there's more cold water: Bidding wars are starting because of tight housing inventories, but those inventories are artificially tight because banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are keeping more than 2 million foreclosed homes off the market. Meanwhile, some 11 million homeowners still owe more on their houses than their homes are worth, including more than a million people who have just bought in the past two years, Reuters reports: "Many borrowers, particularly since late 2010, thought they were buying at the bottom of a housing market that had already suffered steep declines, but have been caught out by a continued fall in prices in wide swaths of America." And why have these buyers been taken by surprise by falling home prices? Partly because of the constant cheerleading of the real-estate brokers and housing "analysts," who keep saying a bottom is in. They'll cite stuff like yesterday's report that pending home sales jumped a bunch last month. But they'll be less enthusiastic to let you know that home-purchase contracts keep failing because appraisal values keep falling below agreed-upon sale prices.

Thing Two: Pain In Spain: In news that will shock only people who have never heard of "Spain" or "credit" or "rating agencies," the credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Spain's credit rating yesterday by two notches, to BBB+ from A. The credit market, which already has determined that Spain has a lower credit rating than that, yawned, as did the rest of Europe. Bigger fish to fry, like whether to finally give up on the fairy tale of austerity, as Paul Krugman puts it, the kind of fairy tale that leads to the mass suicide of an entire continent, as Columbia economist Joseph Stiglitz puts it. Spain, meanwhile, remains in a "huge crisis," as its foreign minister put it.

Thing Three: Inside Addition: Goldman Sachs names just keep bubbling up in the Galleon Group insider-trading investigation. Yesterday The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that a fourth Goldmanite is under investigation on claims of feeding tips to Raj Rajaratnam, the convicted manager of the defunct Galleon hedge fund. Neither Goldman nor the Goldmanites under investigation have been charged with any wrongdoing, and the lawyer for Goldmanite Numero Quattro denies his client fed inside information to anybody.

Thing Four: Google Ga-Ga: If you're like me you've never heard of Beth Wilkinson until this morning, but the words "Beth Wilkinson" apparently strike terror in the halls of justice: The New York Times writes that the Federal Trade Commission's hiring of Wilkinson means it is so going to take Google to court in an antitrust case. Oh, it is on, Google, Beth Wilkinson style. "[T]he core question is whether power was abused. The agency’s inquiry has focused on whether Google has manipulated its search results, making it less likely that competing companies or products appear at the top of a results page."

Thing Five: Run For Your Money Fund: Money-market funds, which you probably own in your 401(k), played a role in the financial crisis, taking on a bunch of short-term credit risk that nearly set our retirement money on fire when everything went horribly wrong. These funds, which are supposedly among the safest assets you can own, are still too risky, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. And yet! The funds, shockingly, are lobbying as hard as their little legs can carry them to oppose new SEC regulation that would make them safer, the WSJ reports. And of course Congress is listening to the funds, not the regulators.

Thing Six: For Your Health Care: President Obama's health-care reform law is not exactly the most popular piece of legislation ever enacted, but it might get a little more popular in the coming months as insurance companies, due to a little-known feature of the reform law, send out rebate checks worth more than one billion dollars to individuals and employers, writes Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post. The rebates are "expected to go out around August," the Wall Street Journal reports -- not long before the election.

Thing Seven: Amazon En Fuego: Amazon.com reported its best quarterly results in like forever last night, thanks in large part to hot sales of its Kindle Fire, Reuters writes: "During the first quarter, nine out of 10 of the top selling products on Amazon.com were digital products, including Kindle e-books, movies, music and apps, the company noted."

Thing Seven And One Half: Any Day Now: On this day six years ago construction first began on the 1,776-foot-tall "Knee-Jerk Reaction Tower," er, "Freedom Tower" at One World Trade Center. It still continues.

Now Arriving By Email: If you'd like this newsletter delivered daily to your email inbox, then please just feed your email address to the thin box over on the right side of this page, wedged narrowly between the ad and all the social-media buttons. Nothing bad will happen to you if you do, unless you consider getting this newsletter delivered daily to your email inbox a bad thing.

Calendar Du Jour:

Economic Data:

8:30 a.m. ET: GDP for the first quarter 2012

9:55 a.m.: University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index - final reading for April

Corporate Earnings:

Before Market Open:
KKR
Chevron
Newmont Mining

Morning:
Ford
Merck
Procter & Gamble

Heard On The Tweets:

@moorehn: Meredith Whitney and Citigroup hate each other SO MUCH that it might actually be frustrated love. http://t.co/EfJnLqW6

@conorsen: If 2011 was about riots due to austerity, 2012 is about failures of austerity leading to new approaches. Very encouraging.

@ReformedBroker: Really, people - "Pending Home Sales"? How many times do you need to be fooled?

@NeilShahWSJ: Who is America's top young economist? Here's a run-down of contenders http://t.co/UXSHnUVG

@jfahmy: 30% of the female traders on Twitter are named Mike $STUDY

@wiserguy1971: @jfahmy btw, how do you know? did you hit on some of em? lol

-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.

And you can follow us on Twitter, too: @markgongloff and @byKhadeeja

FOLLOW BUSINESS