Across the pond, a housing mess redux

Here at HW, we focus on what’s taking place in residential real estate and single-family mortgages within the States; but it’s worth noting that what’s happening here is being repeated in primary and secondary markets worldwide. Yesterday, the UK press was up in arms over their very own housing crash. Via MarketWatch:

House prices in Great Britain continued to decline in June, falling 0.9% from May and dropping 6.3% since June 2007, mortgage lender Nationwide said Tuesday. The drop comes after a 2.5% decline in May. The average house price fell to 172,415 pounds ($343,134), down from 173,583 pounds in May.

The culprit is lenders that have reeled in credit standards and begun charging much higher rates to lend — sound familiar? The UK’s Telegraph put it bluntly:

Economists think that the property market is now in entering a prolonged downturn that will match the slumps experienced during the 1990s and 1970s – the two major corrections since the Second World War…

But it isn’t just the UK that’s feeling the heat of a global credit market that suddenly has lost much of its appetite for housing risk. Bloomberg reported Monday evening that the Aussies are seeing their RMBS market retract quickly:

Australian sales of bonds backed by mortgages slumped to a record low in the first half as the fallout from the U.S. housing market collapse reduced demand for the assets and issuers were forced to pay higher yields. Companies sold A$1.90 billion ($1.82 billion) of bonds backed by Australian home loans to investors in the six months ended June 30, down from A$4.87 billion in the second half of last year, according to Westpac Banking Corp. figures. Issuance fell almost 96 percent from the first six months of 2007, when a record A$45 billion was sold, more than half overseas.

Something tells me U.S.-based private party issuers would kill for those kind of stats right now, but with issuance off nearly 100 percent, something also tells me that Australia’s secondary market is going to look a lot like our own very shortly. After all, a seperate Bloomberg report notes that economic growth in the land down under is expected to slow under the highest borrowing costs in 12 years. The difficulties faced in other countries underscore why this time, our housing mess is different; a point I’ve made a few times in the past — this is the first time our own housing market has been so intricately intertwined with the global economy, and a repricing of risk within our borders means a repricing of risk outside of them, as well.

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