FHFA Nears Decision on Debt Forgiveness, and Tuesday: Case-Shiller House Prices

From Nick Timiraos at the WSJ: Data Show Fannie, Freddie Savings From Debt Forgiveness

As the regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac nears its decision on whether to approve debt forgiveness for troubled borrowers, a new analysis by the regulator suggests that taxpayers could actually benefit from the move…

In April, the agency said that loan forgiveness would save about $1.7 billion for the companies, relative to other types of relief. At the time, the agency said that because the Treasury was paying to subsidize those write-downs, the relief would still cost taxpayers $2.1 billion, offsetting any savings to the companies.

But the latest analysis done by the agency found that such write-downs would generate $3.6 billion in savings for the companies, under certain assumptions, according to people familiar with the analysis. Even after subtracting the cost of the Treasury subsidies, the program would save $1 billion, these people said. As many as 500,000 borrowers could be eligible, these people said.

The FHFA has raised other concerns beyond the cost of such write-downs. Chief among them is the fear that more borrowers, upon hearing that Fannie and Freddie are instituting a debt-forgiveness program, might default to seek more generous terms.

FHFA acting director Edward DeMarco focused on this last point in his speech in April:

One factor that needs to be considered is the borrower incentive effects. That means, will some percentage of borrowers who are current on their loans, be encouraged to either claim a hardship or actually go delinquent to capture the benefits of principal forgiveness?

It is difficult to model these borrower incentive effects with any precision. What we can do is give a sense of how many current borrowers would have to become “strategic modifiers” for the NPV economic benefit provided by the HAMP triple PRA incentives to be eliminated. In this context, a “strategic modifier” would be a borrower that either claims a financial hardship or misses two consecutive mortgage payments in order to attempt to qualify for HAMP and a principal forgiveness modification.

The FHFA might decide that the risk from “strategic modifiers” outweighs the possible savings.

Also from Nick Timiraos at the WSJ Are Home Prices Rising? A Price-Index Primer

On Tuesday:
• At 8:30 AM ET, the Personal Income and Outlays report for June will be released by the BEA. The consensus is for a 0.2% increase in personal income in June, and for 0.1% increase in personal spending, and for the Core PCE price index to increase 0.2%.

• At 9:00 AM, SP/Case-Shiller House Price Index for May is scheduled to be released. The consensus is for a 1.4% decrease year-over-year in Composite 20 prices (NSA) in May. The Zillow forecast is for the Composite 20 to decline 1.0% year-over-year, and for prices to increase 0.8% month-to-month seasonally adjusted.

• At 9:45 AM: Chicago Purchasing Managers Index for July will be released. The consensus is for a decrease to 52.5, down from 52.9 in June.

• Also at 10:00 AM, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index for July. The consensus is for a decrease to 61.5 from 62.0 last month.


And the final question for the July economic contest:


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