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Homeownership drops to 1998 level

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The U.S. homeownership rate in the second quarter dropped to its lowest level in 13 years, according to the Census Bureau, with analysts expecting even more drops ahead. The homeownership rate fell to 65.9%, down one percentage point from a year ago. It's the lowest level measured since the first quarter of 1998. Analysts at Capital Economics said this means the homeownership rate built during the housing boom has been "completely wiped out" by its bust. "The poor economic climate, the double dip in house prices, the high number of foreclosures and tight credit conditions are all reasons why the homeownership rate will continue to fall," analysts said. The rate remained highest in the Midwest at 70%, followed by 68.2% in the South, 63% in the Northeast and 60.3% in the West. Since the second quarter of 2007, the homeownership rate in the West has dropped more than four full percentage points. Homeownership for younger consumers has become even more sparse. According to the Census Bureau, the rate among Americans younger than 35 years old dropped to 37.5% from 39% one year ago. This, analysts said, is a sign credit has tightened for younger consumers. With unemployment elevated for this cohort, as well, the rate could continue to fall in coming quarters. "With another 3 million foreclosures in the pipeline and no sign of a major improvement in credit conditions or the labor market, demand for owner-occupied housing is likely to remain weak for some years yet," Capital Economics analysts said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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