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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Housing and Auto Industry not as Rosy as They Would Like US to Believe

Rosie's Tidbits
from David Rosenberg
August 6, 2009

Some bad news for the long-range housing outlook
The homeownership rate surged to nearly 70% during the bubble and has since fallen back to 67.4%, but still well above pre-bubble norms. A just-released study by the University of Utah shows that the rate of homeownership in the U.S.A. is poised to decline to 63.5% by 2020 (where it was in 1985). At a time when there are still some 800,000 units in excess that are vacant AND for sale, this secular decline in demand spells one thing and one thing only – a secular deflation in residential real estate. The periodic months of "green shoot" stability will very likely prove to be little more than noise along a fundamental downtrend in pricing.

Perpetuating the spending and borrowing cycle

We couldn't believe this when we saw this quote from the U.S. Transportation Secretary (Ray Lahood) in yesterday's NYT (page B3) on the "Cash for Clunkers" program: "There obviously is a real pent-up demand in America ... people love to buy cars, and we've given them the incentive to do that. I think the last thing that any politician wants to do is cut off the opportunity for somebody who's going to be able to get a rebate from the government to buy a new vehicle."

Are you kidding me? If there is pent-up demand for autos why do we need a rebate? If there are 20% more vehicles than there are licensed drivers, why the need to perpetuate this cycle of overspending? Why is it a politician's job to create incentives to spend? Shouldn't they be focusing their attention on health, education, defense, infrastructure, public safety, job skills and productivity growth (and perhaps the youth unemployment rate of around 20%)? We're not exactly espousing an Ayn Rand libertarian view but at a time when the deficit is running at 13% of GDP, at what point is enough? These rebates are not manna from heaven – it's a future tax liability to hasten a decision that the auto buyer would have made in any event.

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