A record 9.1% of all US mortgages were delinquent at the end of the first quarter, the Mortgage Bankers’ Association reported yesterday, highlighting the pressure on policymakers as they attempt to engineer a still elusive bottom in the US property market.
Housing starts and sales appear to be stabilising, and homes no longer look expensive. But house prices are still falling rapidly – down 2.2% in March alone, according to the Case-Shiller index. Delinquencies and foreclosures are rising and spreading to so-called prime mortgages.
Now a partial rebound in mortgage rates – in conjunction with the growth of negative equity – threatens to maintain downward pressure on prices, while also limiting the capacity of indebted households to refinance at ultra-low rates.