Housing Woes Remain Long-Term Problem, Says Goldman Sachs Economist

A report from Goldman Sachs, released late Friday, said that losses from the mortgage mess — subprime and otherwise — could reach as high as $500 billion. According to Reuters, which first broke news of the Goldman analysis, economists at the financial firm see any potential bounce in the U.S. economy this year as being temporary at best. Via Reuters:

“Excess supply in the housing market is still growing; home prices are already falling at rates that are very rapid by the standards of previous housing downturns around the world; and U.S. loan-to-value ratios are much higher than in those previous downturns,” he said. “Ultimately, a painful adjustment needs to take place, certainly in the housing and credit markets and likely in the broader economy as well,” Hatzius said.

The remarks are those of Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief U.S. economist; he also goes on to suggest that he expects a “renewed” slowdown in the U.S. economy to start 2009, as a “stimulus-fueled bounce” wears off in the back half of this year. The idea that a fundamental, needed correction underlies the current financial crisis is not a new one, although Hatzius is among the more visible to suggest that fiscal measures by the current Bush administration to solve for the financial mess are likely to do little in the long run. For what it’s worth, Hatzius also said he believes the Fed will not begin tightening monetary policy in 2009, as a result — many market pundits have said recently that they expect the Fed to begin raising its target federal funds rate in 2009, as the market crisis recedes. If Hatzius is correct in suggesting that we’re merely forestalling an inevitable correction, questions in 2009 instead will more likely center on what the Fed has left in its monetary arsenal.

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