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 A Look At U.S. Home Price Performance in 20 Markets charts the historical year-over-year monthly percent change in the actual home-price figures for the 20 cities that S&P/Case Shiller tracks.

Sam Humbert writes: 

The key phrase is "severity of the declines in home price appreciation" — not "declines in home prices." By that logic, if home prices are unchanged year-to-year, it's a "severe decline."

Reminds me of Washington budgeting — all discussions of "cutting" the federal budget revolve around declining second, third, and fourth derivatives of dollars/time, not reducing the actual dollars.

George Zachar replies:

Yes, in fact, there's a tutorial being conducted by the press on how to selectively report and present data to drive down economic confidence. So far polling data indicate it's working.

Roger Arnold counters: 

A rose by any other name…

Most markets are now showing negative price appreciation. No matter how you count it that is a price reduction even before adjusting for inflation. Bottom line is that in both nominal and real terms home prices are falling, late pays/defaults/foreclosures are rising, underwriting guidelines are tightening, and availability of credit as a result is decreasing.

All indicators are that pro-cyclical real estate and credit contraction is accelerating. The question is whether or not it has reached a stage of self-reinforcing, i.e., tipped over the fulcrum.

To date the trend has been slow, steady, and transparent, much more so than I was counting on at this point. However, the events unfolding in the subprime space today may very well be the precursors to and immediate catalyst for MBS ratings downgrades to sub investment grade.

There has been enormous pressure placed on the ratings agencies to act more concurrent with market conditions. It is debatable as to whether or not that is their function but Allied Capital, a large buyer of the lowest grade subprime tranches, liquidated their portfolio in such months before that market began its sudden consolidation earlier this year.

A good argument has been made that the rating agencies should have seen what was coming regardless of what the capital markets were doing. With the movements today, those rating agencies now have their own potential legal liability issues to contend with should they not act soon.


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