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Obama Administration Scorecard Rates Housing Market as "Stabilizing"

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Housing prices are finally stabilizing but the market remains fragile as foreclosure rates climb and serious delinquencies work through the pipeline, according to the Obama Administration’s third monthly housing scorecard, which records housing activity through August. July housing prices remained flat after 30 months of declines but foreclosures rose slightly from June, placing additional stress on the market, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Treasury Department. The government bases these numbers off of the Standard & Poor's (S&P)/Case-Shiller home price index and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) index. But according to the Altos Research, 10-city composite price index, prices have fallen "significantly" from a recent high in the summer of last year. Morgan Stanley analysts also recently questioned the power of these indices. The report also points to low mortgage rates, which have helped 7.1m homeowners refinance since April 2009, according to the report. This resulted in more than $12.7bn in total borrower savings. But according to the report, new home sales are down 25% from last year and new mortgage-purchase originations are down 7.2% from a year ago. The report also claimed there has been twice as many "modification arrangements" compared to foreclosure completions. Since April 2009, there were 1.3m modifications started through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), 1.4m modifications through proprietary programs, and 472,000 loss mitigation and early delinquency interventions by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). These have outnumbered the 1.24m foreclosures completed in the same period, according to the report, which bases those numbers off data from RealtyTrac. But more work is still on the way. Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac said 3.8m households could receive a foreclosure filing by the end of 2010. These don't necessarily mean foreclosure completions, as RealtyTrac data covers filings from a notice of default (NOD) through REO. "Despite these positive indicators, some data in the August report underscores continued market fragility, suggesting recovery will take place over time," according to the report. Write to Jon Prior. The author holds no relevant investments.

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