Housing recovery could take nearly a decade: BofAML
Bank of America Merrill Lynch expects the beleaguered housing market to keep pushing the U.S. economic recovery down through at least the first half of 2011. Analysts foresee GDP growth lower than the consensus estimate of 2% for the first six months of next year with "better growth in the second half as a variety of uncertainty headwinds abate." For the full year, BofAML predicts GDP growth of 2% to 2.5% as core indicators of inflation weaken further. In its global economic outlook for 2011, BofAML said the U.S. economy remains vulnerable to premature fiscal tightening, commodity shock and a variety of other downside risks. "Batten down the hatches," according to Ethan Harris, head of developed markets economics and coordinator for global economics for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Analysts expect growth to inch back up to 3% in 2012, "but a true rebound remains a long way off." Senior U.S. economist Michelle Meyer said "it could take nearly a decade" for the housing market to return to some sense of normal. New home sales are down 80% from their peak and existing home sales are off 40% according to BofAML, which anticipates sales to remain muted before starting to climb in the middle of next year. Analysts project home prices to fall another 5% through the first half of 2011 because of slow jobs growth and the residual effects of the foreclosure fiasco that plagued the industry in 2010. And BofAML expects the foreclosure problems to weigh on the space for the next several years. Home prices will be hurt by the nearly 2.3 million mortgages BofAML expects to wind up as distressed sales over the next year and half. Still, there is another 2.2 million of seriously delinquent mortgages and roughly 3.8 million homes for sales. Subtract the nearly one-quarter of foreclosed homes in REO, and BofAML puts the supply of homes at 7.2 million, or 21 months. Analysts do believe the delinquency rate has peaked, "but it is likely to fall gradually" due to slow jobs growth that will keep the number of new foreclosures elevated. Write to Jason Philyaw.