•Mortgage Delinquencies Rise to Record as U.S. Home Prices Fall in Slowdown

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    Mortgage Delinquencies Rise as U.S. Home Prices Fall (Update1)
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    By Kathleen M. Howley

    Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) --
    Americans fell behind on their mortgage payments at a record pace in the second quarter as job losses and falling real estate prices thwarted government efforts to stabilize the housing market.

    The share of loans with one or more payments overdue rose to a seasonally adjusted 9.24 percent of all mortgages, an all- time high, from 9.12 percent in the first quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report today. The inventory of homes in foreclosure increased to 4.3 percent, the most in three decades of data, and loans overdue by at least 90 days, the point at which foreclosure proceedings typically begin, rose to 7.97 percent, the highest on record.

    “We’ve seen a significant drop in the problem with subprime loans and we’ve moved now to a problem with prime fixed-rate loans,” Jay Brinkmann, the Washington-based trade group’s chief economist, said in an interview. “Job losses are driving it, and we expect that to continue into next year.”

    Homeowners fall behind on their mortgage payments when they lose their jobs, and declining prices mean they can’t sell to pay off loans, Brinkmann said. Companies have shed 5.7 million jobs since January 2008, the biggest employment loss since the Great Depression. The median U.S. home price fell 16 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the steepest drop on record, according to the National Association of Realtors.

    The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started was 1.36 percent, down from 1.37 percent in the first quarter, driven by the decline in subprime loans. New foreclosures on prime loans increased to 1.01 percent from 0.94 percent, while subprime loans dropped to 4.13 percent from 4.65 percent, Brinkmann said.

    The delinquency rate for prime loans rose to 6.41 percent from 6.06 percent, and the share of prime loans in foreclosure increased to 3 percent from 2.49 percent.

    Jobless Claims Rise

    The number of people filing claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Applications increased to 576,000 from a revised 561,000 the week before. Economists had forecast claims would fall to 550,000 from a previously reported 558,000, according to the median of 39 projections in a Bloomberg News survey.

    U.S. banks raised requirements for all types of loans in the second quarter and said they expect to maintain strict criteria on lending until at least the second half of 2010, according to the Aug. 17 Federal Reserve Senior Loan Officer survey.

    None of the 51 respondent banks eased standards on prime mortgages in the latest survey, while 39 said demand for home loans was about the same, moderately stronger or substantially stronger.

    Housing starts unexpectedly fell in July, pulled down by multifamily dwellings, while single-family starts that make up 75 percent of the industry rose to the highest level since October, a Commerce Department report showed this week.

    The 1 percent decline in starts to an annual rate of 581,000 was the first drop in three months and followed a 587,000 rate in June. Construction of single-family houses rose 1.7 percent to a 490,000 rate.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen M. Howley in Boston at kmhowley@bloomberg.net.
    Last Updated: August 20, 2009 11:23 EDT