Millions of homeowners still at risk as economy heats up: ASF panel
There are more than 11 million borrowers in danger of losing their home without change in government policy, but the overall economy should get stronger in 2011, according to a panel of economists speaking Tuesday in Orlando at the American Securitization Forum's annual conference. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said the business cycle is starting to turn up and he's optimistic the economy's prospects are good. Zandi expects GDP growth of close to 4% this year and in 2012. He also projects jobs growth in 2011 to more than double last year's roughly 1.25 million new private sector jobs, climbing to about 2.5 million to 3 million. The unemployment rate should end 2011 south of 9%, dropping to lower than 8% by the end of 2012. "U.S. businesses are very profitable, and if history is any guide, that should lead to expansion in business and more hiring," Zandi said. "Jobs growth toward the end of the year will be close to 300,000 monthly payroll jobs. We're righting the wrongs that got us into this mess, which at the core was that we made millions of bad loans that couldn't get repaid." Zandi said the credit spigot is opening, and banks are starting to originate more loans after two years of continued declining volumes. Still, Laurie Goodman, senior managing director Amherst Securities Group, said there's another 11 million homeowners in imminent danger of default on their mortgages. "It’s a moral issue not an economic one," Goodman said, adding that supply-side action alone is insufficient. There needs to be policy decisions that effect demand side, as well, she said. She estimates 95% of the nation's 4.8 million nonperforming loans will end up in foreclosure. "When people make noises about housing getting better they point to the decline in nonperforming loans, but looking at nonperforming loans and re-performing loans together there's been no improvement," she said. Of the roughly 3.4 million re-performing loans, 70% will eventually fail, she said. And the default rates aren't any better within non subprime loans, as all performing loans that were making payments for four years "are now defaulting at a very, very rapid rate." "Equity matters, the combined loan-to-value is the single most important factor in default," Goodman said. While the government's Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, "has been very valuable because it provided a blueprint for more significant mods," the redefault rates remain high even with significant payment reduction. "HAMP mods are likely to be largely ineffective, as six months after the modification all loans have a 33.8% redefault rate," Goodman said. "All this points to the need for principal reductions." Write to Jason Philyaw.