Housing correction just starting

New York Sun:

Don’t get relaxed about the housing industry, because it’s going to get much, much worse. That’s the message from Gary Gordon at Annaly Capital Management, a firm which invests in mortgage-backed securities. Mr. Gordon is looking for substantial further declines in housing starts and sales, which will result in a recession beginning in 2007.

He is on the pessimistic side of the Great Housing Debate, which will doubtless be reignited when the figure for September housing starts comes out tomorrow.

The real issue is: How much consumer spending has been funded by rising home prices and how vulnerable is the economy to a fall-off in home values? Bears argue that the consumer has used his home ownership as a piggybank that is now ominously empty. They point out that mortgage equity withdrawals have climbed almost without pause since the early 1990s. Today, these borrowings are plummeting, a development that the folks at economics consultancy ISI call “unprecedented.”Equally without precedent is that existing home prices may actually decline this year.

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